Yemen: How community volunteers are helping to stop COVID-19

By: 
CARE
Mona at an IDP camp in Yemen
Mona is spearheading a hygiene project in a camp for internally displaced people in Yemen

Mona, who lives at a camp for internally displaced people in Yemen, is leading efforts to respond to COVID-19.

My name is Mona. For a quarter-century, I’ve believed that my name says everything you need to know about me.

My name starts with the letter ‘M’, which stands for the Motivation that I never lost even though I live in a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Aden city in the south of Yemen.

My home country is considered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 80 percent of the entire population requiring some form of humanitarian aid. Like my family, which consists of seven members, an estimated four million Yemenis have been internally displaced within the country as a result of the ongoing conflict.

Being a displaced person has always encouraged me to do something to help other displaced people.

The ‘O’ in my name stands for Observation. Three years ago, Yemen experienced the worst cholera outbreak in modern times.

No matter how hard I try, I’ll never be able to forget the suffering of young children I observed who have contracted cholera.

In IDP camps, contaminated water has always posed a risk for the inhabitants. The lack of sewage systems and latrines forces people to relieve themselves in the open, and the lack of clean water is another threat to IDPs’ health – the majority of people transfer water from water points to their tents using unclean cans.

The smell inside the camp was unbearable, and I was constantly worried that my people would get infected with cholera, malaria, and the latest COVID-19.

When CARE started to form the rapid response teams in Dar Saad district of Aden governorate, I decided to volunteer with them to help my community. With funding from the Yemen Humanitarian Fund (YHF), the rapid response teams worked to improve communities’ preparedness and prevention through distributing hygiene kits and promoting good hygiene practices like handwashing, food hygiene and proper use of latrines.

I went on house-to-house visits, educating the households on how to use hygiene items and chlorine taps to control the cholera epidemic and prevent further infections. I used to feel tremendous joy when giving hygiene kits to displaced families.

During my visits, I always focus on educating the children because they are the most vulnerable, in addition to their amazing ability to adapt and change their families’ behaviours.

I noticed that communicable diseases began to decrease in the camp, especially among children, as a result of the increased awareness. Being a Non-self-centred person is what the ‘N’ in my name stands for.

The final letter in my name refers to my greatest personal trait – Ambition.

I have always had a strong desire and determination to help both my family and my community.

I started to save the allowance I received from working as a volunteer, then I used my savings to build a new cottage so my family and I could move out of the small room we shared with the other two displaced families inside the camp. The new house has brought us the protection and dignity that we dreamed of, and I am now planning to initiate a small enterprise to improve my income.

And with the help of my colleague Nagib, we started a personal initiative to clean and sterilise water tanks at the distribution points.

I strongly believe success can be achieved through effective partnership between communities, organisations and local authorities. I hope decision-makers will invest in more durable water and sanitation projects across Yemen.

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