icon icon icon icon icon icon icon

The unsung heroes during crisis and pandemic

A man wearing a yellow reflector vest and a cap

Ali feels proud that he can buy food and school items for his children

Ali feels proud that he can buy food and school items for his children

Natural and man-made crises can cause great environmental damage to land and natural resources, in addition to polluting air and water, which affects people’s health and lifestyle. After more than five years of the tragic conflict in Yemen, thousands of residents of Taizz, to the southwest of the country, suffer from tons of garbage scattered in the streets, which pose many health risks for them. Like other public sector workers in Yemen, street cleaners have stopped receiving a regular monthly salary, but even during the COVID-19  pandemic, they kept working hard to make their cities safe and clean.

Ali, 36 years old, is a father of six children. Five years ago, Ali and many other residents of Kalabah sub-district of Taizz governorate fled their homes due to the fighting, without taking anything except the clothes they were wearing. His eyes filled with tears, he says, “This war made me homeless in a blink of an eye.” Ali’s family walked on foot for three hours in search of safety after their home was destroyed.

Ali works with the Cleaning and Improvement Fund, which is responsible for waste management in Taiz, and receives irregular payments. With no stable income, he and his family are forced to live in a small one-room house with no proper latrine. Recently he started to work as a cleaner for a daily wage in order to provide food, medicine and other essentials for his family. Some days, Ali couldn’t get any work, so his family would go without food. “Some nights my children cried for food, which broke my heart,” he says. “I used to collect food from the garbage to avoid that heartbreaking feeling. It was a means of survival.”


A man wearing a yellow reflector vest and a cap
Kareem hopes that the project continues to provide weekly wages

24-year-old Kareem lives with his family in a small tent in Alushah camp. When the war began, Kareem’s family fled to Al Noor camp. “Unfortunately, bombs reached the camp shortly after our arrival,” he says. “My little brothers were terrified and used to cry all the time, so we fled again.” Kareem stopped receiving his salary as a cleaner, so he started daily wage work to provide for his young siblings.

Kareem states: “Cleaners are among the lowest-paid workers, and are the most vulnerable to various types of risks and diseases such as cancer, cirrhosis, allergies and eye diseases, in addition to hazardous working conditions in the streets during conflicts and pandemics. Furthermore, they are often insulted and despised for their work.”

Luckily for many cleaning workers like Ali and Kareem, with funding from European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (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, conducting cleaning campaigns in the targeted areas.

During the cleaning campaign, workers cleaned the city and also received a weekly wage. Ali used the money to buy food and school items for his children. He also saved a portion of his wage and bought a motorcycle to work with. “I’m deeply grateful for CARE’s intervention,” he says. “Now, I just hope the war stops so I can rebuild my house again.” 

“I had two dreams in my life,” says  Kareem with bright eyes. “The first was to marry, which I did two months ago, many thanks to the savings I kept from my weekly wage after buying food for the family. I hope the project continues so I can achieve my second dream, which is to build  a small house for my family in the future.”


Back to Top