“I am proud of the work our teams are doing”
Working with affected communities in Yemen to prevent the spread of cholera
Sunita Sharma is a WASH Coordinator working with International Medical Corps. Her job is to design, lead and manage water, sanitation and hygiene promotion programmes in Yemen. Sunita has been with International Medical Corps for about two years, mostly in Turkey, moving over to Yemen in 2017.
Since a second cholera outbreak hit Yemen in April this year, more than 90,000 cases have been reported throughout the country. Women and children are those most at risk.
To this day the situation remains alarming, with cases reported in new areas all the time. Without improved security and access for humanitarian aid organisations, I worry that the situation is only likely to get worse.
As the conflict of Yemen’s Civil War goes well into its third year, there still seems to be little hope for those affected by the ongoing violence and displacement. Aid agencies are overstretched with limited resources, movement restrictions and frequent road closures. The resurgence of cholera cases - and the rapid spread of the disease across the country - has been a direct result of the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, where more than half of the health facilities are no longer functional.
With support from the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSC), International Medical Corps has been responding to the cholera outbreak threatening hundreds of thousands of lives in Yemen. We have been working throughout the country to provide adequate hand washing facilities, train cleaners and health workers and repair broken and blocked sewage systems. More than 700 sets of hygiene kits have been distributed to the families in the affected regions of Aden and we have worked to organise hygiene awareness sessions for those most at risk.
Sometimes even changes that seem small make all the difference in the world to the families we try to help.
One such case in Kod Authomani district comes to mind. Farida Mohammed - a 41-year-old mother of five - told me she used to spend almost all her income on trying to provide enough clean drinking water for her family.
Sadly her story is not uncommon. Families in Yemen are trapped in a vicious circle of poverty, conflict and disease. Because of collapsed health services and a widespread loss of livelihoods, people often find themselves fully relying on humanitarian aid – but their needs are many, and the assistance is often a short-term solution only. As the summer heat soars, water provisions are often not enough, so families have to travel long distances and spend the little earnings they can spare to find clean water. Others resort to drinking water from unsafe sources, such as broken pipes and open wells, further exacerbating the spread of diseases like cholera.
Through funding from KSC, International Medical Corps has installed a water tank in Kod Authomani district – meaning that people like Farida can now access free clean water. She told me gratefully that the money she used to spend on water could now be spent on good and nutritious food for her children, ensuring that her family has remained healthy.
Hearing the stories of those we have helped makes me feel proud in my role as a first responder in Yemen. The response of our team here – many of them local Yemenis themselves – has been inspiring. It motivates me to work harder and do even more.
Yet it also makes me feel the immense responsibility of what we are trying to achieve, and still more remains to be done.
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