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Clean water and safe latrines protect our dignity

A man helping a woman fetch water in a Jerrycan from a piped water

Faizah and her brother easily filling the jerrycan using a pipe in front of their house

Faizah and her brother easily filling the jerrycan using a pipe in front of their house

Due to the ongoing conflict, more than 20 million people in Yemen are in need of water & sanitation services. 20.5 million Yemenis require support to meet their basic water, hygiene and sanitation needs, 11.2 million of whom are in acute need. The burden of fetching water often falls on women and girls who must walk long distances every day to reach water sources, leaving them vulnerable to many risks along the way.

Faizah Ahmed Shouai is a 35-year-old mother of three children. She lives in Al Nasser village in Bani Qais district of Hajja governorate in the north of Yemen. “I used to spend more than two hours fetching water from a distant valley, passing many hazards along the way,” says Faizah. “The water we brought used to be contaminated, containing stones, parasites and germs.”

In most Yemeni households, women and children are responsible for collecting water. Due to the prolonged conflict, primary water sources have stopped functioning, meaning that they have to travel long distances to reach the closest water sources. This threatens their safety and dignity as they have to face insecurity, animals and harsh weather conditions. Children may remain out of school so they can fetch water, and women’s time away from home can reduce their ability to breastfeed, care for their children and attend to their household chores – all of which can increase their stress.

Faizah recalls one of the critical situations she faced during water fetching, saying: “One day I was collecting water from the valley with many other women and girls. Suddenly, torrential floods came from the mountains and flooded the valley. We were shocked and ran to the highest areas to survive. That was horrific.” 

A man standing in a doorway
Faizah’s brother using the latrine that was constructed at the house yard

“It wasn’t only the water that threatened our protection,” she adds. “Open defecation was widespread in the village because people didn’t have toilets. Women had to wait for the night to relieve themselves in the dark.  Despite the pain we had to endure all day, going out in the darkness used to frighten us and endanger our lives.”

Fortunately for Faizah’s family and other residents in Hajja governorate, with funding from the Yemen Humanitarian Fund (YHF), CARE intervened with an integrated project, rehabilitating water schemes, as well as constructing 150 latrines and distributing both basic and consumable hygiene kits. Hygiene promotion sessions were conducted by local hygiene promotion volunteers to spread best hygiene practices among the most vulnerable households.

A man standing in front of a round stone structure
The newly constructed water tank

“We finally have water in our house,” says Faizah happily. “It’s a great achievement, and you can see the joy in women’s and girls’ faces. Additionally, latrines at homes save our dignity and keep us protected from numerous risks we used to face when we went to relieve ourselves in the open at night.”

Faizah participated in the local committee that was established by the project. She represents other women in her village and contributes to facilitating the implementation and monitoring activities. “I hope to see more of CARE’s projects again in my impoverished village as they help us to survive,” she concludes.

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