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IDPs in Amran see Disease Risks Reduced with Newly Constructed Latrines

Two women standing in a doorway

Anesa, one of CARE staff, checks on the progress of latrine construction. Photo: Abdulrahman Alhobishi/CARE.

Anesa, one of CARE staff, checks on the progress of latrine construction. Photo: Abdulrahman Alhobishi/CARE.

After nearly seven years of conflict, according to the 2022 Yemen Humanitarian Needs Overview, a total of 23.4 million people in Yemen are in need of humanitarian assistance. A lack of access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene are some of the most pressing concerns – a staggering 36 per cent of the Yemeni population live without adequate sanitation.

Romia is a 60-year-old mother of five children, 3 sons and 2 daughters, from Bakeel Almeer, Hajjah Governorate in north-western Yemen. She and her family used to have a simple but happy life. As many in her village, she used to raise sheep and goats to sell some to buy the necessities of her family and feed and take care of her family. Herders in rural areas in Yemen depend on selling livestock since it is an important revenue source.

The eruption of the war in 2015, has changed her life completely. “We used to have a small house and a source of income, but I lost everything I had. I have never imagined this could happen to us,” says Romia as she was reminiscing about her life in the past. “Warplanes were hovering around. My village was under attack. It was unwise to stay any longer. We left everything and we were forced to start a new journey of displacement life,” Romia describes the horrific day of displacement. “We didn’t know where to go but my husband kept driving away from the village and looking for a safer place.”

A woman and 3 kids sitting outside a mud house
Romia with her grandchildren sitting next to their small home in the camp. Photo: Abdulrahman Alhobishi/CARE

Romia and her family headed to Hurf Sufian district, Amran Governorate to the north of Sana’a. “We reached As Suad district and settled in Alwakeerh camp. We didn’t know anyone here. We found an abandoned small house built of mud and straws,” says Romia. She and her family suffered from the lack of clean water and health care particularly for her husband who used to suffer from heart disease and lived on medication.

Making matters worse, the conditions of displacement further deteriorated her husband’s health condition. “We were blessed to find this small house, but didn’t have a latrine. Due to his sickness, my husband had to use the bathroom many times. He used to walk long distance for open defecation,” says Romia. He was advised to stop walking long distances for his health safety, but he couldn’t do so in the camp because there was no clean latrine facility.

“I still remember the moment of my husband’s death. He couldn’t walk every time he needed to use the toilet. We built a makeshift bathroom in the house. It wasn’t well protected and lacked proper hygiene items,” says Romia, “I wish we had a clean and well-built latrine and a health care center.”  Her husband’s health worsened and he died shortly after.

A rock wall with a white cloth from it
The makeshift latrine Romia has next to her home. Photo: Abdulrahman Alhobishi/CARE

Inadequate access to a private, comfortable, and well-located toilet remains a critical challenge for many displaced people, particularly the elderly, girls and women. Females in the camp have had to wait till dark to go to relief themselves in the open spaces in the community. “I am suffering from knee issues and can’t walk a long distance. Having no latrines in my home had made things harder for my health condition. I couldn’t accompany my grandchildren every time they need to go to the open and relieve themselves,” says Romia.

Romia believes that the temporary latrine she has had near her home has been a source of diseases, particularly for children in the house. “Insects such as flies and mosquitos have been everywhere in the house and children have suffered from fever from time to time,” she says.

To improve basic living conditions and strengthen the resilience of conflict-affected communities in Yemen and families such as Romia’s, CARE and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) work to provide immediate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) assistance for internally displaces people (IDPs) and vulnerable communities in Amran Governorate through rehabilitating water schemes, constructing latrines, and conducting hygiene promotion activities. CARE is constructing 80 family latrines in As suad, Hurf Sufian district, where Romia and her family currently live.

The prevalence of acute water diarrhea and cholera during the rainy season is what guided CARE to provide water, sanitation and hygiene services to Romia’s community in Amran. A community hosting a significant number of IDPs a limited latrine coverage and rampant open defecation- assessments indicated significant contamination of shallow and deep well sources.

A brick wall with a door and a sign on it
Newly constructed latrine next to Romia’s home. Photo: Abdulrahman Alhobishi/CARE

“Thanks to those who helped us and constructed a well-built latrine next to my home. I and my children don’t have to worry any longer about going far to the open for defecation,” says Romia clearly happy with the outcome she’s seeing.  CARE is also conducting home-to-home health awareness sessions and distributes 500 hygiene kits to improve their personal hygiene.  “This helps us have a clean environment and protects us from diseases,” she says. We are confident that we drink clean water that has not been contaminated by open defecations; locals have learnt the right hygiene practices and have been very responsive and attentive during the awareness sessions conducted by CARE staff. “I hope such interventions will continue to help both the host community and the internally displaced people,” And I think I now save money and do not have to take my children to hospital frequently she concludes.

A group of women sitting in a door way
Anesa, one of CARE staff, conducts awareness session for residents. Photo: Abdulrahman Alhobishi/CARE
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