Yemen: Aid workers save lives in the midst of crisis

By: 
CARE
Working in the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today, CARE staff are helping fight poverty and defend dignity every day

I help, I provide aid, I save lives, I fight against misery with hope.

World Humanitarian Day 2017: A day in the life of aid workers

Mona, a CARE humanitarian officer in Yemen

Mona Mubarak Al Kawkabane (above) is a CARE field officer based in Hajjah, Yemen.

6.00am

My colleagues and I have a very early start to their work day. We need to be ready to leave by 6.00am, since most of the villages are far off and can take up to four hours to reach. Hajjah is mountainous and the road infrastructure is poor. So we spend a lot of time on the road.

The road can be a tricky place. We are stopped several times at security checkpoints where we may spend a few hours before getting cleared to move on.

Often, we will be asked to present a male guardian (Mahram) – a requirement for females to be accompanied by either their husband, father or brother while travelling. This can either delay our mission or stop it entirely.

In the villages, our team visits families in their houses and talks to the inhabitants in order to understand their needs.

For most families, the needs are overwhelming and they seek any possible assistance. 

10.00am

In Al Shagadra village, which is located at the top of a hill, the greatest challenge is access to water. I speak to 16-year-old Aysha, who until recently used to walk for three hours just to fill up a 10 litre bottle with water. On her way back, she would end up drinking a large share of the water because of the heat and the long journey back.

The well or water tank where she collected the water was very dirty and not safe for drinking.

CARE has since constructed a water well in the village. This has drastically reduced the distance that girls like Aysha need to cover to collect water. The water is also regularly tested for contamination and treated to ensure that families like Aysha’s use safe water for drinking and cooking.

Young girls at a water collection point in Yemen
Girls collecting water at a rehabilitated water point

3.00pm

The families we meet and talk to are very generous and often invite us to have meals with them.

Even in the midst of this crisis, Yemenis have not lost their generosity. This encourages us to do even more to help.

Depending on how much we can get done throughout the day, our team may choose to spend the night in the village or return to the city.

7.00pm

On most evenings, I reflect on my life and why I help people. I recall how as a young girl, I would sit outside my house and watch children of my age go to school.

One day, I followed the children to their school. My father was very angry and demanded to know why I had gone to school without his permission. I told him how much I wanted to get an education. My father became very emotional and in the end sent me to school. Now I am the first woman from my village that has earned a university degree.

I know that I am working where I’m needed the most. I will continue to help where it is needed, as it makes me very happy. This is my greatest achievement.

Jalal, a CARE humanitarian officer in Yemen

Jalal Al-Ashmori (above) is a CARE field officer based in Hajjah, Yemen.

6.30am

Amran is a mountainous area, and as we go up into the mountains the road becomes dangerous and narrow. That’s why, whenever we go to the field, we have to travel the day before. We usually leave in the morning and arrive by noon.

My alarm goes off at 6.30am. I wake up, wash my face and get ready for another day serving the people. At 7.30am the volunteers who help in the food distribution arrive and we all have breakfast together before we split up in teams.

8.30am

We are ready to start, armed with our registration lists and food for distribution. The teams are divided between the registration table and the distribution unit.

Once the word spreads that we are distributing relief supplies, people in need of humanitarian assistance arrive in large numbers from the early morning. They wait patiently for their turn.

12.30pm

Sometimes, there is no time to have lunch. People also come from other villages in the area and we don’t want to make them wait since their journey back is hard.

Children inside their home in rural Yemen
Children inside their home in a rural village in Yemen

A week ago, while we were in a village called Tulaya, we found a nine-year-old girl who was eating from the garbage. When we asked her if she and her parents were registered to receive assistance, she told us that her father passed away while they were fleeing from their house. Her mother is very sick.

We went to visit her in their home to make sure that this little girl and her family receive the necessary assistance.

6.00pm

On a busy day, we finish around 6.00pm. Usually we then sit and reflect together as a team and plan for the day after. We also prepare the lists of names for the next day.

10.00pm

When the night is calm and quiet, I usually get ready to sleep. Unfortunately, some locations do not have mobile coverage and sometimes I cannot speak to my wife and children for days.

As a father, I feel I am responsible to provide my children with a decent life.

Serving my community and being a part of the process of helping the people most in need makes me feel incredibly happy and grateful.

I have promised myself to keep helping my community until my last breath and to set a great example for my children.

Young women at a CARE water point in Yemen
Young girls at a water point rehabilitated by CARE in a village in Hajjah, Yemen

How CARE is helping people in Yemen

Three years after the escalation of the conflict in Yemen, the country has the greatest level of humanitarian needs in the world. Over 70% of the country’s population is in need of some form of humanitarian assistance; millions lack access to safe water and more than 60% of Yemenis are threatened by severe food shortages. Compounding these challenges is a fast-spreading cholera outbreak that makes the already dire humanitarian crisis even worse. Over 300,000 people are suspected to have contracted cholera across Yemen. The health system is in near collapse and other public services have become almost non-existent.

Dedicated humanitarians are working round the clock to meet the staggering needs. They too are living in and experiencing the crisis. In Hajjah governorate of Yemen, CARE International is providing life-saving humanitarian assistance to communities, providing safe water, increasing people’s access to food and enhancing livelihood options. A team consisting of eight humanitarian workers spend three to four days a week visiting villages – most of which are remote and hard to reach – providing the help needed.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.