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Rebuilding aging water facilities alleviate the water crisis in rural Yemen

A fence with solar panel in a mountain green landscape

Solar panels provide the water station in the Nagad Al-Barad area of Al Maqatrah District with clean, affordable, and sustainable power to pump the water. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.

Solar panels provide the water station in the Nagad Al-Barad area of Al Maqatrah District with clean, affordable, and sustainable power to pump the water. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.

Access to safe water is critical for communities’ health and growth. But in rural Yemen, many communities lack access to clean, safe water. Over eight years of conflict and economic recession in Yemen have seriously exacerbated the quality and coverage of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services. Water systems and services throughout the country have suffered from damage and underdevelopment, resulting in 15.4 million people needing WASH support.

The lack of access to safe water services forces vulnerable households to use unprotected and unsafe water sources. Even reaching these unprotected water sources takes several hours of walking on foot. Distant water sources are often shared with livestock, which further contaminates the water.

Communities of the Al Maqatrah area in Lahj Governorate suffer from water scarcity, with nearly half of the population lacking sustainable access to clean water, negatively affecting their health, livelihoods, and development. Hundreds of families in the area struggle to collect water from unprotected wells, walking more than three hours daily to fetch unclean water. Donkeys that carry water from the wells to the villages often die after a year of harsh water-fetching journeys.

“Residents here buy drinking water from water trucks at high prices, yet many families can’t afford it. Those who can’t buy water send their women and children to fetch water from polluted wells,” says Mariam, a 33-year-old mother of four children from the Al Maqatrah area.

“For me, obtaining water is associated with pain and loss,” adds 49-year-old Nabeel Mohammed, another resident of Al Maqatrah area. “Each time I go to the well, I’m reminded of a tragic incident where a child from my family fell into the well and died while attempting to fetch water. I was devastated because we couldn’t rescue him. Since then, I always pray to God to protect my children when they go to fetch water.”

A man pointing to a newly built solar panels
Nowar points to the newly installed solar energy system in the Nagad Al-Barad area of Al-Maqatrah District, Lahj Governorate. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.

Nowar Ahmed, 56 years old, lives with his family of eleven members in the Naged Al-Barad area in Al Maqatrah. “Over the past years, the village’s water system stopped several times due to the lack of fuel,” he explains. “The water system was built decades ago using a diesel water pump engine. Because of the war, diesel became scarce and very expensive. The local committee running the water system in the area resorted to difficult rationing steps to maintain the continuity of service, cutting pumping hours for several days, dividing the community into “water zones”, and restricting pumping water to a few days a month for each zone. Without pumped water, families were forced to walk several kilometers to neighboring villages to get water.”

“Due to climate change, water resources started to deplete,” says Nabil Mohammed, 52 years old, from Al-Massad Village in Al Maqatrah District. “Soon, we shall have to walk further up the mountain to get water for drinking and domestic uses.”

Residents of Nabil village have limited access to water sources. With few water sources far away, they had to walk for hours to get enough water for their household needs before the wells ran dry. “Women and children walk several kilometers twice a day to access alternative water sources, which are not necessarily clean,” he adds.

Nabil’s community depended on the water reservoir in their area to collect drinking water. Over the years, the water reservoir of Al-Massad Village was not only a source of water for the residents but also a source of diseases as it had no roof and was exposed to dirt, germs, and animals. For rural families, drinking unsafe water is the only choice, as safe drinking water is inaccessible and unaffordable.

A man holding a child
Nabil Mohammed, 52, and his son near the new water distribution point in Al-Massad Village. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.

To address these challenges, with funding from Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), CARE works to strengthen the resilience and self-reliance of vulnerable communities in Lahj Governorate by improving access to essential services.

The intervention prompts durable solutions to improve communities’ access to water. Through the project, the old water system in Naged Al-Barad was upgraded with a solar energy system to operate the water pump and ensure families have clean, affordable tap water. About 12,000 residents living in Naged Al-Barad now have access to water directly in their homes – around 52 to 54 liters per day per resident. In addition, the project will help more than 8,000 people by improving the water supply in medical and educational institutions in the area.


A man standing next to machines
Nowar stands between the old diesel generator and the new solar control system in the pumping room of the Nagad Al-Barad water project. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.

“Solar power is a great solution to use a green energy source that does not harm the environment and has less operational cost to provide water for communities,” says Nowar. “We now pump water daily, and I’m no longer fearful for my children because clean water reaches our homes every day.”

Nowar is a member of the community committee that manages the water system in the Nagad Al-Barad area. To ensure the sustainable operation of the water supply system, the project trained the local committee to establish a project management system, calculate fees, and educate families about water conservation.


A water tank in a stone block
The water reservoir in Al-Massad Village had no roof and was exposed. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.

After cleaning it and checking the water quality, a concrete slab was installed as a roof for the 800-cubic stone-water reservoir in Al-Massad Village. Over 800 people in Al-Massad Village enjoy clean water closer to their homes after building the top of the water reservoir, installing 1,200 meters of water networks, and building water collecting points

A block water reservoir
The water reservoir in Al-Massad Village after rehabilitation. Photo: Bassam Saleh\ CARE.

“When the reservoir was without a roof, the residents didn’t benefit from it much, and it was a cause for diseases spread,” says Nabil. “Building a roof for the reservoir helped limit the spread of water-borne diseases, such as diarrhea.”

To maximize the durable impact of enhancing water facilities, CARE trained 20 community volunteers to conduct awareness sessions for communities in Maqatrah District, educating about 20,000 people about personal hygiene, preserving water sources, and the link between water, sanitation, and hygiene to improve their health.

A group kids sitting under a tree listening to a woman standing in front of them
CARE volunteers educate women and children about best hygiene practices. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.
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