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Urgent water, sanitation and hygiene needs in Yemen

A woman standing in a pond

This rainwater pond is the only source of water in Almadan village of Amran

This rainwater pond is the only source of water in Almadan village of Amran

In war-torn Yemen, 20.5 million people need humanitarian assistance to access safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) provisions, of whom 11.2 million are in acute need and require life-saving assistance. Displaced populations and marginalised groups are the most affected. Lack of access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene is a major risk factor for poor health, resulting in high mortality rates. Yemenis are increasingly and severely affected by preventable WASH-related diseases.

Almadan village of Amran governorate is one of many villages across the country that were left to face WASH and health risks. Like most Yemenis, residents of Almadan depend on a rainwater pond as their sole source of water. The pond fills up over the summer and residents use it for drinking, cleaning and washing. Women and children walk long distances to collect potable water in water cans, carrying them on their heads all the way home.


A woman fetching water from a pond
A woman fills her water container from the contaminated pond

The pond is full of rubbish and worms, a main source of diseases for the residents, particularly children and women. There are also no mesh panels to protect them from tripping and falling into the pond, making it a double safety hazard. Locals have extreme fears and concerns about fetching water but they have no other choice.

Yemen is one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, and access to water has been further diminished by the impact of over five years of conflict. The lack of clean water contributes to a high prevalence of preventable diseases such as cholera, dengue fever, diarrhoea, and now COVID-19. Since 2016 the country has suffered from the worst multiple cholera outbreaks in history, with over 2.4 million cases of cholera and acute watery diarrhoea. Dengue fever, diphtheria, and malaria also cause a large scale of suffering and mortality year after year.

The conflict and subsequent economic collapse have dramatically increased household poverty, displaced nearly 4 million people, and increased vulnerability to, and the spread of life-threatening WASH-related disease. Amidst the breakdown of public services, only 30-40 percent of Yemenis have access to sufficient water, leaving the rest of the population in need of humanitarian assistance, without which their lives could be under threat.

Stagnant water
Contaminated water ponds are the sole source of water for many Yemenis

Dire food insecurity continues to push the country to the brink of the famine, with 20.1 million Yemenis needing food assistance to survive. Malnutrition rates in the country remain among the highest in the world, with 25 percent of the population suffering from either moderate or severe malnutrition – including 2.1 million children and 1.2 million pregnant and lactating women. Food commodity prices have risen significantly, and food and other essential goods are becoming inaccessible for millions. The value of the Yemeni Riyal has fallen, making life even harder for many families in Yemen, particularly those living across frontlines.

The humanitarian aid operation in Yemen is the largest in the world. However, the needs are continuing to grow, given the protracted conflict and the new challenges imposed by the vast spread of COVID-19 and its devastating impact on the already fragile situation. Due to the shortage of funding, many life-saving aid programmes are threatened with closure, which could lead to a rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation. This is especially the case for WASH programmes which are suffering from a critical lack of funding.

Two women and two kids sitting in a room
A displaced family in Amran receives food, basic hygiene materials and a female transit kit through the Rapid Response Mechanism
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