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Displacement forces families to make difficult decisions

A small boy looking sad facing the camera

3-year-old Reslan has just recovered from dengue fever

3-year-old Reslan has just recovered from dengue fever

My name is Eman. I’m thirty years old and I have six children. Before the war, I used to live in Al Mekhlaf village of Yemen’s Taizz governorate. I had a peaceful life, raising my kids and hoping for a better future. But an escalation of fighting in my area forced us to make the difficult decision to flee our home in search of safety and we were displaced to Al Nahda area in Taizz. As we lack a stable income, we had to move into the only home we could afford – a small house with a zinc roof located near the Martyrs’ Cemetery.

When people passed by my neighbourhood for a few minutes, they used to close their eyes and hold their breath. Only the poor displaced families who spent their days and nights right here understood the suffering. Our area suffered from a lack of sewage systems meaning that sewage water filled the street and the cemetery. Many families stopped visiting their loved ones in the cemetery and residents were afraid the cemetery be contaminated by the water – moving bacteria and viruses through the soil.

A stream running through a grassy area
The cemetery filled with sewage water before the sewage system rehabilitation

Two months ago, my 3-year-old son Reslan became very sick from playing in front of the house. He had dengue fever and spent some time in the hospital until he recovered. I also was infected with the chikungunya virus, which is transmitted by infected mosquitoes and spreads in areas that suffer from poor sewage systems. I hated living here, but I had no other option. Like all the displaced mothers here, I worried about my children’s health, given their weak immunity and the spread of epidemics, but I couldn’t protect them or rent a house in a better place.

Taizz governorate, southwestern Yemen, is one of the hardest-hit areas in the country. More than five years of continuous conflict have devastated the health, water and sanitation system in the city, leading to significant health risks. Sewage water is known as ‘the black water’; it contains bacteria, parasites and viruses and exposes people to killer diseases such as cholera, dengue, malaria and diphtheria.

With funding from the European Union’s department for humanitarian aid and civil protection (ECHO), CARE provided multi-sectoral life-saving assistance to conflict-affected displaced people and host communities in Salh, Al qahirah and Al mudhaffar districts of Taizz governorate. Luckily for Eman and other families living near the Martyrs’ Cemetery, the sewage system was repaired, and the neighbourhood is now free from contaminated water and bad odours.

Every morning I hear the prayers of families who can visit their loved ones in the cemetery again.  Now, dead people can rest in peace. So many families have benefitted from the sewage system repairment, and children don’t get sick as much as they did in the past. Before, only flies and mosquitoes visited my house, but now my friends visit me. I don’t feel embarrassed by the bad smell or the dirt anymore.

A cityscape seen from a hillside, featuring a buildings in the background.
The Cemetery after the sewage system rehabilitation
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