DRC’s efforts to rehabilitate latrines enable children to return to school

In Yemen, more than 20 million people are in need of safe drinking water and sanitation assistance. The lack of safe drinking water and functional sanitation facilities places many Yemenis, particularly children, at risk of contracting water-borne diseases and acute respiratory infections.

As the world commemorates the World Toilet Day, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) has since the onset of the conflict in Yemen been working towards assisting communities affected by the conflict to rehabilitate their sanitation facilities and enhance their access to water, particularly in Hajjah and Hodeidah governorates.

“Throughout the country, many sanitation facilities are no longer in use due to conflict-related damages and an increasing lack of clean water or fuel to maintain operations. This has resulted in 80 percent of the Yemeni population being unable to access adequate sanitation and safe drinking water in the majority of the governorates,” notes Ali Al-Emad, DRC’s WASH Manager.

WASH_toiletday _midtIn response, the DRC’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) team contracted construction teams to construct four and rehabilitate 25 latrines in six schools in Hajjah and Hodeidah governorates – benefitting over 4,000 people, 96 percent of whom are children. Prior to this, all 25 rehabilitated latrines were out of service, thus leaving children without the ability to use latrines during school hours.

One of the schools that received help from DRC, al-Ittihad school in Hodeidah, noted a dropout rate of 30 percent amongst girls and 20 percent amongst boys, simply because there were no functional latrines.

“Without latrines, boys were forced to use open areas for urination and defecation, while most girls, in adherence to social norms of modesty, were forced to hold their need for urination. Consequently, many girls contracted urinary tract infections and kidney stones. Some girls would leave school in the middle of the day and not return, ultimately to dropout altogether,” notes Ahmed Saleh Al-Junaid, the principal of the school.

The lack of functional latrines not only impacted children’s health and their access to education, but also has an impact on the teachers and the school atmosphere.

“Many children were embarrassed to urinate outside, and because they were not able to hold the urge, they would frequently have accidents, leading to feelings of embarrassment and requiring help from teachers. We are very happy that with help from DRC, our school now has four operational toilets, clean water, and restored sewage pipes to facilitate optimal sanitation,” reports Mr. Al-Junaid.

“Thanks to the availability of toilets and clean water, our school has become a child-friendly environment’, says Mr. Mohammed Azzarea, a teacher at the al-Ittihad school. “The school is proud to record a return of more than 50 female pupils in grades 3 to 6.”

The school also participated in awareness training on general hygiene, including the importance of hand washing. As part of the training, each pupil received a towel and a bar of soap. “I was surprised to see my son, a first grade pupil, taking a bar of soap and heading towards his mother to teach her and his younger brother the correct way of handwashing”, Mr. Al-Junaid told DRC.

DRC’s WASH programme in Yemen is one of its key intervention sectors in response to the current emergency; it aims to reach over 41,000 Yemenis in 23 communities in the Hajjah and Hodeidah governorates. DRC’s overall emergency assistance in Yemen targets up to 243,000 beneficiaries and includes protection, food security, and livelihoods interventions.

The conflict in Yemen has rendered approximately 21.2 million people in need of some form of humanitarian assistance. DRC thanks the generosity and partnership of its donors so that it can continue providing emergency assistance to the people of Yemen during this extraordinary and challenging time.