The human face of water shortage and deteriorating sanitation in Yemen

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How ACTED’s OCHA-funded WASH programming has improved the immediate quality of life for 40,000 beneficiaries in Al Dhale’e and Al Jawf.

To mark the close of two OCHA-funded ACTED water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects in Yemen, ACTED talks to beneficiaries in Al Dhale’e and Al Jawf about their experiences and highlights some of the project’s key successes.

Yemen has had terrifying humanitarian indicators for years, including in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). The last year and a half since the conflict began has compounded and exacerbated these pre-existing issues. Up to 20.4 million people are now in need of assistance related to WASH. Up to 9.4 million have suspended, reduced, or disrupted access to water largely as a result of fuel shortages. Around 2 million children are at risk of diarrhea because of poor access to water and poor sanitation environments. In response, ACTED launched interventions centred on providing comprehensive emergency WASH assistance with the following objectives:

On the other hand, ACTED’s intervention in Al Dhale’e governorate reached 22,404 beneficiaries with water filter distribution, hygiene kits and hygiene training, community water point rehabilitation, and WASH infrastructure rehabilitation in health facilities.

“The impact of the crisis has been devastating. I know the water my family was drinking was not clean, but there were no other options”

Lina is a 26-year-old computer scientist, who lives with her husband and two young boys in a small village in Jahaf district. Lina tells ACTED that the “impact of the crisis has been devastating” for her family. She has a BA in computer sciences, but since the war started in 2015, both she and her husband lost their jobs, leaving them without money for food and other basic items. As a result she sees her family’s health deteriorating. Lina tells ACTED that most people in her village are in a similar situation; they’ve also lost their jobs and their financial situations are dire. Equally, she says there is a shortage of water in the village and a shortage of fuel that is needed to run generators. Lina knows the water her family was drinking was not clean, but she also had no other options.

Until ACTED provided hygiene promotion training, hygiene kits and water filters to members’ of Lina’s community in late 2015 and early 2016, she says that there had been no other humanitarian assistance in the village. Lina not only participated in the hygiene promotion training, but before doing so, she encouraged other women in her village to attend, and to make sure they were aware of key practices to keep their families safe and healthy. Lina says that because the women in her village were so motivated by the important lessons learned in the training, and by receiving the key hygiene inputs from ACTED, the women later formed a group amongst themselves and cleaned up their village. She says the women in her village have been very motivated by ACTED’s activities to keep ensuring the hygiene and health of their families and community.

“Hygiene promotion training gave me the knowledge to keep my family healthy”

Zahra lives with her family in a small village in Jahaf district. She has six sons and three daughters, although sadly, she tells ACTED that one of her sons was killed during the fighting in Al Dhale’e governorate. Zahra says that she has no formal education, and neither does her husband. Zahra tends cows and sheep for a living, and her husband gets his income from ad-hoc manual labour jobs, when he can find work.

Zahra says that since the war started, people in her village have experienced a severe water shortage, and that the water that is still available is not safe to use. Furthermore, Zahra reports that most people lost their jobs during the crisis, and that the price of staple food has risen a lot. Zahra mentions that because her and her husband don’t have enough money to meet her family’s basic needs, that diseases are spreading, and that her children often have diarrhea.

Zahra is optimistic about the impact of the hygiene promotion training both for her own family, and the wider community. She feels that the hygiene promotion training armed her with the knowledge to keep her family healthy, and that together with the other women who received the training with her, they reinforce this knowledge and awareness in their community.

Abdo is a 65-year-old farmer from Al Jawf Governorate, a northern region of Yemen. He is the head of a large household. He tells us that many of his adult children have been forcibly displaced with their families, and have now returned to live with him. Abdo says his income is minimal, irregular and not enough to meet his family and extended family’s needs. Since the start of the war in 2015, his village has experienced a lot of difficulties. Many people lost their jobs, there was excess pressure on local resources because of a massive influx of IDPs into the area, and in particular, clean and safe drinking water was scarce.

Before ACTED began trucking water to his community, Abdo says people were obligated to travel far distances to collect water for their homes on unsafe routes. Abdo tells us that a very positive aspect of being a beneficiary on an ACTED project is that he was able to contribute his opinion directly, and assist the community with water truck monitoring. He tells us he was especially proud of his community, who formed a beneficiary selection that was fair and well-targeted in their village. Abdo says that although the water trucking from ACTED was helpful, with the situation worsening in Yemen, his community remains in desperate need of food assistance, and trained medical staff and equipment in local health facilities.