For most Yemenis, purchasing food is a daily struggle, much less purchasing basic hygiene needs like soap. This is causing many war-torn, rural communities to struggle to protect themselves from COVID-19. And for those that can afford potentially lifesaving hygiene products, their availability is strained – placing unprecedented global and regional pressure on essential health supplies, putting the most vulnerable communities at risk. Hundreds of thousands in the poorest urban and rural areas are affected.
"In my neighborhood, big families live in the same house. Families of 11 or more share the same residence, and they cannot secure their basic needs. COVID-19 has worsened our difficult situation and life has become much harder,” said 32-year-old Malak Mohammed. "My neighbors told me that family members usually have just one bar of soap to share amongst them. The small bar of soap quickly runs out after everyone takes a shower. Most of the time they don't have money to buy more soap, and they can wash their hands with only water,” she said.
Malak participates in the United Nations Development Programme’s soap making training that has been established in communities to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading throughout Yemen. The training supports home-based micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to enable them to successfully produce significant amounts of soap. After the training, participants receive USD 600 grants to begin their home production of soap with an expectation that they will produce 5,500 bottles of liquid soap a month. The project is generously funded by the European Union, Sida, and UNDP’s Rapid Response Facility. The project offers the families an opportunity to earn life-changing income and the community an opportunity to have access to affordable, life saving soap.
“I really appreciate being able to participate in this kind of job training because critical health supplies are running so low and I like helping to find new solutions in such a crisis,” Malak said.
By adapting existing UNDP projects to respond to COVID-19, UNDP Yemen was able to conduct a soap-making training for 12 MSMEs. UNDP has taken particular care to conduct the trainings in adherence with social distancing and crowd control measures within the COVID-19 health requirements.
Malak says, "Thanks to the continuous cooperation and efforts by UNDP, together with others, I am able to provide life-saving health and hygiene supplies during such a critical time. It makes me feel that I am making a difference in my world.