Emergency latrines: restoring the health and dignity of Yemen’s most vulnerable populations

By improving access to safe and adequate water supplies, building basic sanitation infrastructure for households, UNICEF and SIDA have helped entire communities to adopt positive health and hygiene practices.

Elizabeth Doyle
Emergency latrines projects in Yemen
UNICEF/YEMEN/2021/Abdullah Al-Mass
28 July 2021

“Women and children would wake up early in the morning just to navigate harsh terrain and transport water from remote areas of Al Jawf by donkey. Considering how long it took them to source the water, children often missed classes. And then there was the indignity of having to defecate in the open… which resulted in pollution and also contributed to the spread of diseases.”

Mohammed Al Omaisi, a 38-year-old technical engineer in the emergency response project for water and

Four years ago, Yemen experienced the worst cholera outbreak in modern history – spanning 96 percent of its governorates. The erosion of the country’s healthcare, water, sanitation, and hygiene systems occurred against the backdrop of a protracted war that has seen 122 airstrikes on water infrastructure alone.

Proper sanitation, hygiene, and safe water supplies have never been more urgent – particularly for the country’s most vulnerable populations. Yet, less than 10 per cent of displaced people (70 per cent of whom are women and children) have access to a safe latrine, and are forced to contend with a lack of privacy, the spread of disease, and acute watery diarrhea.

Emergency latrines projects in Yemen
UNICEF/YEMEN/2021/Abdullah Al-Mass
Latrines and water stations were installed in IDP camps in Al Hazm and Al Ghayl Districts, Al Jawf Governorate in the first half of 2021.
Emergency latrines projects in Yemen
UNICEF/YEMEN/2021/Abdullah Al-Mass
Latrines and water stations were installed in IDP camps in Al Hazm and Al Ghayl Districts, Al Jawf Governorate in the first half of 2021.

Due to longstanding problems with the water network and infrastructure, families have struggled to get enough water to meet their basic needs each day. Often, they are forced to travel long distances by foot or donkey in search of communal water supplies and working wells. Sometimes, despite their best efforts, they are left without water for several days, and suffer the effects of dehydration and lack of sanitation.

Emergency latrines projects in Yemen
UNICEF/YEMEN/2021/Abdullah Al-Mass
IDPs in Al Jawf Governorate like Alia Ali and her grandsons, Ali, 12 years old, and Mohammad, 6 years old, used to travel long distances to fetch water in Al Jawf Governorate. Thanks to the latrines installed in the first half of 2021, they now have access to water in the camp.
Emergency latrines projects in Yemen
UNICEF/YEMEN/2021/Abdullah Al-Mass
IDPs in Al Jawf Governorate like Alia Ali and her grandsons, Ali, 12 years old, and Mohammad, 6 years old, used to travel long distances to fetch water in Al Jawf Governorate.

The indignities of displacement

When 30-year-old Nora Salem fled her home in Khab Al Sha’af, in Al Jawf governorate, northern Yemen, five years ago, she never expected to end up being the sole breadwinner for her family of nine. After her father became ill and stopped working, and because of the conflict and a lack of public services in their region, the family was displaced to the Al Ayed camp for internally displaced persons. The family had to fetch water from a well located half an hour away, and water was not always available.

“Due to water scarcity, some members of our community suffered from health issues like kidney stones, and two of my younger sisters even contracted cholera. It was a hard life,” Nora explains.

 

UNICEF’s emergency response project for water and environmental sanitation

The goal of UNICEF’s emergency response project for water and environmental sanitation was to provide adequate and safe sanitation for internally displaced persons in nine of Al Jawf governorate’s camps.

 

UNICEF used funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) to support its implementing partner Yemen Al-Khair for Relief and Development Foundation in mobilizing local teams.

Once target sites were selected based on the greatest needs, 150 emergency latrines were installed to foster hygiene, sanitation, proper waste disposal, and provide much-needed privacy.

Emergency latrines projects in Yemen
UNICEF/YEMEN/2021/Abdullah Al-Mass
IDP sites have been equipped with latrines and water stations, Al Jawf Governorate, June 2021.
Emergency latrines projects in Yemen
UNICEF/YEMEN/2021/Abdullah Al-Mass
IDP sites have been equipped with latrines and water stations, Al Jawf Governorate, June 2021.

In addition, residents received supplies of clean drinking water by truck, personal hygiene kits, and were educated on proper hygienic practices – knowledge that is vital for the country’s fight against cholera, malaria, and now COVID-19.

“Now, with the availability of latrines and water, our community has improved tremendously, people’s privacy has been restored, and our camps are much cleaner,” according to 43-year-old resident, Mohsen Saleh.

Emergency latrines projects in Yemen
UNICEF/YEMEN/2021/Abdullah Al-Mass
43-year-old, Mohsen Saleh, in an IDP camp in Al Jawf Governorate, northern Yemen, June 2021

Before the project concluded, water stations were erected and have since been maintained. “Now that the water is available at our fingertips, we no longer need to truck water,” Mohsen adds.

By improving access to safe and adequate water supplies, building basic sanitation infrastructure for households, and fostering resilience amongst Yemen’s most vulnerable populations, UNICEF and SIDA have helped entire communities to adopt positive health and hygiene practices.