In the arid landscapes of Yemen, a nation historically plagued by water scarcity, the challenges have escalated to unprecedented levels. Groundwater usage surpassing annual recharge, coupled with the impact of climate change on seasonal rains, has intensified the water shortage crisis.
Following the destruction of water and sanitation systems due to the conflict, a staggering 14.5 million Yemenis find themselves without access to safe drinking water. This situation makes it challenging to contain the spread of water-borne diseases and paints a stark picture of the pressing need for sustainable solutions to address this vital issue.
Grappling with water issues due to its rough terrain, At Turbah is also one of the most overpopulated towns in the Ta’iz Governorate. The rapid population growth, compounded by ongoing displacement flows, has put immense pressure on its already limited water resources.
“The scarcity of water resources represents a real problem in Ta’iz, particularly in At Turbah, since it’s located on higher ground and has fewer water sources compared to valleys,” explains Zaid, Director of the Local Water and Sanitation Corporation branch in the town of At Turbah. “The cost of diesel has also been a significant challenge, given the limited income of the local population,” Zaid adds.
For a long time, residents of At Turbah have faced challenges in pumping water from their two groundwater wells due to an old generator that frequently broke down, leaving the community with no access to water.
Khalil’s experience, a father of two in At Turbah, reflects the common struggle faced by families in Ta’iz to access clean water. “When the generator malfunctions or runs out of diesel, we have to resort to water trucking which is extremely expensive. A single truck can cost up to USD 30, an amount that many of us cannot afford.”
According to Khalil, many families used to go days without water, compelling residents to fetch water from open wells and banks in the city’s outskirts. The task typically falls on women and children who spend hours carrying water back home using jerrycans.
“It’s a daunting task for women and children to trek considerable distances and endure long queues, just to bring home two to four jerrycans, which falls short of meeting their family’s daily needs,” Khalil says.
Not far from Khalil, in the suburbs of At Turbah, lives Ashjan, a laboratory technician, with her family of ten. “Trucking water in our area is complicated due to its mountainous and rough nature,” she explains.
Since no water truck could reach her family, Ashjan had to wake up at dawn, descend to the valley to fill jerrycans with water, and then laboriously carry them up the mountain, before heading to work.
Bringing water from the valley poses dangers, as women and children navigating the mountain with heavy jerrycans risk falling. “Carrying water up the mountain is exhausting,” Ashjan says. “Sometimes, we accidentally drop the jerrycans, losing all the precious water we worked so hard to collect.”
According to Ashjan, big households have to collect and carry water six to seven times a day. For those living far from the water bank, it can take hours to fetch water each time. This puts a toll on their daily lives, diverting time and energy away from essential tasks, including work, school and other activities crucial for their well-being.
Just like Ashjan, other residents in At Turbah suburbs have had to depend on water springs in the valleys for water access. However, the springs’ water supply is contingent on seasonal rains and often dries up in winter.
“The water bank, where the spring water flows into, tends to dry up quickly,” Ashjan explains. “If we don’t go early in the morning, there will be no water left for us.”
Responding to the urgent needs on the ground, the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) team working with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in collaboration with the Local Water Corporation, conducted multiple assessments in Ta’iz, including in At Turbah, and ran tests on water quality to meet the requirements needed to install a solar-powered well pump.
Thanks to the new solar power system, public facilities in At Turbah and its suburbs, including hospitals, schools and nearly 29,000 people – of whom approx. 5,800 displaced – now have direct access to a clean, sustainable water source.
In addition to installing the solar system, IOM teams conducts cleaning campaigns for At Turbah residents, organizes operation and management sessions for the water committee overseeing the wells and holds awareness-raising sessions to promote the rational use of water.
“Now that we have a constant flow of water, you can see the women’s eyes shimmering with happiness and relief,” says Ashjan. “In 2022, we received water only once, but since July, we’ve had a continuous water supply to our houses. It has been a blessing.”