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“I learned it the hard way”

A woman in a black outfit holding a baby

Fatima Ayyash Saeed with her son

Fatima Ayyash Saeed with her son

Yemenis have had to live with the consequences of the ongoing conflict for almost six years. Basic services, including health services, have been disrupted, exposing many people – especially children and women – to greater risks. The cholera outbreak in Yemen has been the largest in recorded history, with more than 1.2 million cases since 2017. Similar to more than four million Yemenis who fled their hometowns across the country, displaced families in the southern port city of Aden are often deprived of vital basic medical services.

“We were forced to search for safety in Aden after fighting escalated in Hodeidah, reaching our neighbourhood,” says 44-year-old Fatima Ayyash Saeed. “We left our house, our possessions and our livestock and ran away.”

Many of  Hodeidah’s residents who survived the armed conflict in the Red Sea coastal city, faced challenges when they were displaced to Aden. Fatima lives in a very small hut that can barely accommodate her family. The walls of the hut are cracked and worn out, and the flimsy roof may fall in at any moment. Moreover, the family keeps the cooking equipment next to the room they sleep in, which exposes young children to the risk of injury and fire.

“During my pregnancy,”  adds Fatima, “I had diarrhoea. I began to vomit and then I fainted. I woke up in a health center near the camp. I was told that I had fainted, and that some women had taken me there.” It turned out that Fatima had contracted cholera. Although she had heard about some people showing symptoms, Fatima wasn’t aware of cholera infection, implication or prevention.

To raise awareness about cholera infection and prevention methods, with funding from the Yemen Humanitarian Fund (YHF), CARE trained nearly fifty-eight members of the rapid response teams in Dar Saad district of Aden to provide a swift response to epidemics and outbreaks.

The teams conducted house-to-house visits to chlorinate water tanks and distribute hygiene kits. They educated residents – including displaced families – on how to use the hygiene items and chlorine taps to prevent cholera.

“The CARE team gave us soap and hygiene kits and taught us about good hygiene practices and water chlorination as well as how to get rid of flies and mosquitoes,” explains Fatima. “I now understand that we must ensure water purity before drinking, and wash our hands regularly.” 

Since her recovery, Fatima has been advising other displaced mothers in the camp about the best practices to keep food, cans, and containers safe; and to always ensure that water is available at the house gate and in the toilets. “I learned it the hard way. It’s very important to take care of your health,” she concludes.

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