Jameel Mothana Mohammed Moqbel is a sheikh of the Mohamasheen community in Mahwa Al-Asfl, Habilayn, Yemen. The Mohamasheen are the most vulnerable people in Yemeni society. They are identified as a non-Arab minority, contrasting them with the majority patrilineal Arab tribal culture of Yemen. This community has faced marginalization, violence, and socio-political discrimination for centuries. This marginalization has kept the Mohamasheen at the bottom of the social hierarchy and limited their social mobility and social protection. In addition to being a loving father of four boys and three girls, Jameel is also a leader responsible for 133 families in his community.
Jameel’s family established the small informal settlement of Mahwa Al-Asfl on the outskirts of Habilayn City along with other Mohamsheen and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) a few years ago with the intention of protecting their loved ones. Due to water scarcity, and a lack of toilets and sanitation facilities in their temporary homes, people were forced to urinate and defecate in the open. Further compounding their difficulties, Jameel and most of his community cannot afford adequate food and have no access to clean water, health, or education facilities. Their children are vulnerable to fatal communicable diseases due to unhygienic living conditions and an environment contaminated with human waste.
Poverty worsens with the war.
The situation of the Mohamasheen further deteriorated with the eruption of the war in 2014, which put an excessive load on families struggling to secure their basic needs like food and clean water. The compounding effects of poverty result in many children being forced to drop out of school to work or beg to earn money to support their families. Because of their status and lack of access to education and decent employment, most of the Mohamasheen community is uneducated and has no income source other than manual, often unskilled labor, and begging. The situation is the same for Jameel; even though he is a community leader, he doesn’t have a secure source of income and must also resort to being a day worker. Despite his circumstance, Jameel still tries to help his community.
People in Need (PIN) identified the vulnerability of the Mohamasheen and decided to act using the funds from Alliance2015 partners Welthungerhilfe and the PIN Club of Friends. “We rehabilitated a nonfunctional borehole to address the area’s safe drinking water shortages. The dedicated PIN Volunteers also engaged the community to improve their living conditions through hygiene awareness sessions. They also provided essential hygiene supplies by distributing Hygiene Kits (HKs), including soaps, detergents, and water containers,” says Mohammad Farooq, PIN Yemen Program Manager.
As a result of awareness, a motivated Jameel refused to accept things as they were. Under the technical guidance of our team, Jameel took the initiative to resolve the sewage problem around his house. With the help of his brother Jamal, Jameel borrowed some money and dug his own cesspit for his latrine and, in doing so, mitigated the health risks arising from a lack of sanitation facilities.
I can make a change for my community.
Despite the lack of resources, Jameel and his brother decided to start the work to protect their community and kids from disease or injury from falling into the holes. Furthermore, they are sharing their lessons from PIN’s technical team and hygiene awareness sessions with their community. They encourage their neighbours to maintain healthy hygiene and sanitation practices and reinforce the importance of having suitable cesspits to dispose of liquid waste and sewage.
“The support and information provided by PIN helped me to realize that I can make a change and protect my community from the dangerous disease that may lead to death—especially in children—by adapting hygiene and sanitation practices,” says Jameel.
“I hope that other people from our community can do what Jameel and I did, but it is hard for them because of the lack of financial resources,” says Jamal. “The distribution of the hygiene kits and the awareness sessions conducted by People in Need has helped the people to adopt sanitation practices by providing them with the needed hygiene materials that they couldn’t afford; the PIN team also worked hard to educate people about the importance of maintaining hygiene,” he says.
Jameel and Jamal’s actions are potentially a catalyzing event for the community. However, Jameel and his community still have a long way to go to alleviate poverty and improve opportunities for their generation and future generations. Despite our Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) interventions, the people of Mahwa Al-Asfl struggle to survive in a Yemen torn by war. More people need access to services and resources that meet their basic needs, such as clean water and sanitation, health, education and employment, to break the cycle of poverty and live life with dignity and respect.
Marwah Saleh, Operations Assistant, PIN Yemen