Volunteers for UMCOR’s partner agency GlobalMedic, assembling water-purification units on their way to displaced families in Yemen
By David Tereshchuk*
The world’s media have made the Republic of Yemen, on the Arabian Pensinsula’s tip, facing the Horn of Africa across the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, all too well-known as a country of turbulence.
Long-standing separatist insurrections, and in recent years activity by an Al Qaeda affiliate have combined to created a climate of perilous insecurity for this nation of 24 million.
But adding to its challenges has been a huge extra influx of population.
It may seem a surprising place for people to rush into, but the desperateness of life immediately across the Gulf, for Somalis uprooted by decades-long violence and for others like Eritreans and Ethiopians hard-hit by drought conditions, has brought the total of such migrants and asylum-seekers in Yemen to well over 200,000, according to United Nations agencies.
And already badly beset with its political instability, the Yemeni government possesses little capacity for providing basic services to its vulnerable populations. As existing humanitarian needs seriously increase in scale, the incoming numbers from Africa are now inevitably creating an even greater strain.
Food security is an enormous problem, and so is water.
The depletion of existing water sources, the disruption of power supplies and a lack of finance for repairs have severely curtailed about a third of Yemen’s water systems, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Now the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has stepped in, by deciding to support a program originated by GlobalMedic. Water-purification is the focus of its effort, which is sorely needed - with about 55,000 children in Yemen currently dying each year from waterborne diseases.
The immediate target is 700 of the most vulnerable and marginalized families in Yemen.
UMCOR’s funding is helping GlobalMedic to provide the families with the Canadian-made “Rainfresh” water purification units, along with training on their installation and use. They weigh just 7 lbs and are easily portable, meaning that the new source of clean water is sustainable and will continue regardless of any need to change location. Such risks of having to move their home are a distressing constant in the lives of Yemen’s uprooted communities.
Matt Capobianco, GlobalMedic’s director of emergency programs, says the units “will improve and maintain the health of children, parents and grandparents, allowing them to focus on improving their livelihood - without the worry of contracting life-threatening disease”.
Your gift to UMCOR International Disaster Response Advance # 982450 will help ensure better health prospects for uprooted families like those in Yemen
* David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media analyst and a regular contributor to umcor.org.