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Gathering water can be deadly

A woman covering her face with her hand

The mother of Zainab who fell into the well and died

The mother of Zainab who fell into the well and died

Since the conflicted escalated in Yemen in 2015, life has become much more complicated for women and children. The war has greatly affected the Yemeni economy; there is widespread unemployment, high food and fuel prices and a real crisis in basic service provision such as water, education and health.

Three women – a mother, a teacher and a doctor – from Khashan village in Al-Azraq district of Al-Dhale governorate in southern Yemen, tell parts of this story, which is about the difficulties community faces in gathering water. Previously, the village’s only source of water was a well 45 metres deep without a protective wall around it.

“Our biggest problem was getting clean water,” says Fatina Muhammad Hussein, a mother of ten. “Because of the lack of fuel to run the water pump, we had to go to distant wells and manually raised water from the well.”

In addition to the difficulty in getting clean water, the village well became a hell for the village people, as in a very short period there were three deaths and many injuries as a result of children and young women falling into the well. There was much sadness and fear in the surrounding villages, especially since it is mostly young children and women who fetch water every day.

“This well deprived me of my best and most beautiful student Zainab,” says Maryam, a teacher at the village school. “She fell into the well and died.” Zainab Nasser, from Khashan village, was just 17 years old when she tragically died while searching for water for her family.

“Zainab was my oldest child and the closest one to my heart,” says Zainab’s mother through her tears. “But God wanted her to be with him. Every day I cry for my daughter.”

The village children no longer attended school and the rate of diseases increased due to contamination of the well water. The suffering of the villagers got worse, and they did not find anyone to help them to solve this serious and dangerous problem.

With funding from the Yemen Humanitarian Fund, CARE intervened with a water, sanitation and hygiene project in Al Dhale which brought some hope to the village. Through the project, the well was repaired and covered, and in addition awareness activities focusing on environmental sanitation, hygiene and nutrition were carried out to improve families’ health and wellbeing.

A well in the middle of a field
The rehabilitated well

“Children no longer have to go to wells far away from the village because the village well has been rehabilitated, and this means that students are able to return to school,” says Maryam, the teacher.

Dr Fatima is the village doctor. She says: “After the well was rehabilitated, the water source became cleaner, diseases decreased in the village, and there were no more incidents of children falling into the well.”

The day that CARE finished the project was a new beginning in the lives of the village people. They began to forget the past and look to the future with optimism. Zainab’s mother says: “After my daughter’s death the well was rehabilitated, which saved the lives of many of the village’s children. Thanks to everyone who helped us.”

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