Dr. Khadija, a woman doctor serving women in Yemen

In a country torn apart by war and where the humanitarian situation is dramatic, women and girls face increased health risks. To enable them to access care, Première Urgence Internationale supports female health workers in the health centres where we intervene. Portrait of Dr Khadija, a woman doctor who consults with Yemeni women.

femme médecin au Yémen

Dr Khadija, woman doctor in Yemen, is checking a female patient’s vital signs in Shujinah Health Center.  I © Première Urgence Internationale

The goal of Dr. Khadija*, a female Medical Doctor from Hodeidah, a Governorate of northwestern Yemen, was clear: provide primary health care services to women in her area. Since 2014, Yemen is a war-torn country, suffering from economic collapse. Health care is largely dysfunctional, and support to health facilities – now provided by Première Urgence Internationale – was therefore necessary.

Dr. Khadija started to work in the Shujinah Health Center in April 2022, after the completion of her bachelor’s degree in General Medicine and Surgery. Her daily missions include providing consultations to women, asking for and keeping their full medical history and conducting a comprehensive clinical examination. For her diagnosis, Dr Khadija can use laboratory tests and an ultrasound device that are provided to the health center by Première Urgence Internationale. She can also offer the appropriate treatment to the examined women: in these supported health facilities, care is provided free of charge.


Her presence in the health facility is particularly important for women’s access to health care. Indeed, in Yemen, women have to be examined and treated by female doctors. However, especially in rural areas, female doctors are rare, for various reasons: cultural barriers, a degrading security and comfort conditions in these remote areas, but also as education for women is deteriorating. This is affecting women’s health:

Before [my arrival], there was little presence of women because of the absence of a female doctor. Many women suffered from health problems that they cannot present to a male doctor, as they are embarrassed by the customs and traditions in the region”, Dr. Khadija highlighted.

Dr. Khadija has been nominated by the local health authorities, the Governorate Health Office, with support from Première Urgence Internationale, to enhance women’s access to healthcare services. Première Urgence Internationale is highly committed to recruit and uphold female workers in the health facilities that it supports. This strategy paid off, as female attendance increased dramatically in Shujinah Health Center:

After people heard about the presence of female medical doctor at the center, more pregnant and lactating women who suffer from health problems came. As there is no other female doctor nearby, people are visiting the health center from distant rural areas, even from the farthest villages. […] I realized many women feel comfortable with the presence of a female doctor in the center”, said Dr. Khadija.

Indeed, before the arrival of Dr Khadija, only 37% of the consultations were provided to women: this figure rose to 49% in June 2022. The presence of a female doctor is key, as confirmed by two beneficiaries of the Shujinah Health Center:

I came here by myself, because I know there is female doctor”, testified Ameera*.

I felt comfortable, the services were good and if I get pregnant again, I will come to this health center. There are drugs, laboratory, medical equipment, and a female doctor”, declared Saha*.

Being a woman doctor in Yemen: making a difference

In spite of a difficult area, away from any comfort, commodities and from her family, Dr. Khadija considers that being a female Medical Doctor in this health facility is particularly fulfilling, and that she makes a difference. As an example, she recalls:

A girl in her twenties from a neighboring village was suffering from a bacterial skin infection in a sensitive area, that could not be exposed to a male doctor. Thus, she was taking advice from midwives and took medicines prescribed randomly, without proper diagnosis. Her case was getting worse, until she was examined with privacy [in Shujinah health center] and prescribed the adequate treatment for her condition. I remember she said: “you were a savior sent to us. When you came to work at the center, I was sick for a while, nothing helped me, now I’m healthy, thank God”. At that moment, as a female doctor and human being, I could not hold back my tears!

The context :

Women and children are at the heart on all of Première Urgence Internationale’s projects in Yemen. Indeed, they are the most at-risk population: women represent 22% and children 55% of the 23.4 million people in need of humanitarian support (source: Humanitarian Needs Overview, 2022). Women and girls are disproportionately affected due to mobility restrictions, shortfall of participation in the decision-making processes, and lack of access and control over resources. More importantly, they also have poor access to health services and information related to health issues affecting their wellbeing. If, before the beginning of the conflict in 2014, Yemen favoured the inclusion of women within the political and economic spheres, progresses were reversed.


In Yemen, Première Urgence Internationale is present and active since 2007, providing assistance to the most vulnerable populations of the conflict-affected areas through a community-based integrated approach combining primary and reproductive health, nutrition, psychosocial support, food security and water, sanitation and hygiene interventions. Première Urgence Internationale supports nine health facilities in North and South Yemen with a funding of the United States Agency for International Development, for a project implemented between September 2021 and August 2022. In Shujinah Health Center, 11,228 consultations and 129 deliveries were ensured by the medical teams.

*Names were modified to protect the identity and dignity of the respondents.

All of these activities were implemented with financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of Première Urgence Internationale and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

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