“Every day families here used to come together and hire a truck to fetch water. We would fill the truck with empty jerry cans and travel far, leaving our newly-born babies behind crying,” Khadiga Abuduo, a single mother of three told me. “Then we would stand in line for hours filling the cans with the water we need. But even then, we did not have enough water. Skin disease spread among us. Our children could rarely take baths and were not doing what they had to to be healthy and clean.”
In Sofitel — a small community of 147 families in Taiz, Yemen — families like Khadiga’s live cramped in one-room shelters with no water for drinking or washing close by. Until recently they struggled to make what water they could get hold of stretch. Health problems were rife, especially among children.
Eight months ago Mercy Corps teams spotted the problem and began helping the people of Sofitel stay healthy and get the clean water they need. We’ve worked with local water vendors to accept vouchers that give families 20 liters of drinking water a day, trained community members on the importance of hygiene practices like handwashing, and installed a 5,000 liter plastic tank to store washing and general-use water close to Khadiga’s home.
More than 1,000 people have better access to water now as a result. Children are able to take baths and personal hygiene is improving, keeping families healthier. The local community committee has even agreed to take the lead on new initiatives like street clean-ups and garbage cleaning to continue the good work.
“Life is much easier now,” Khadiga says. “Collecting water is more fun — we just go out from our houses, walk down some steps, chatting with neighbors and friends while we fill up our jerry cans. No more spending money or wasting long hours.”
And the project isn’t just helping with access to water; it’s helping some local people earn a good income too.
Thirty-year-old father of six Adnan Mohammad is a community member who has been put in charge of the water voucher scheme for his area. He collects vouchers from families close by and distributes water to them in return, earning a fair wage for himself in the process. The $300 dollars he earned last month with this work was more than three times what he would normally manage.
“Some people were born with a silver spoon in their mouth,” he said. “Some were born lucky while others were born with nothing. I considered myself one of the latter until Mercy Corps arrived.”
Adnan has decided to make the most of the money he has earned by helping his community and building a house for his family. All the building materials have been bought now and he has laid the first stone for his dream home.
His wife is thrilled, not just with the possibility of a new home but also the fact that she and other women in her community can keep their children clean and healthy now they all have easy access to water.
“I was right to believe in Mercy Corps,” said Adnan. “My dream of building my own house has come true. Yes, Mercy Corps has driven us all to great change.”