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Mohammed Mzahem is a civil engineer in Yemen. He has been a WSSCC member for a year.
Here, Mohammed tells WSSCC about his motivations, achievements and hopes for the future.
In a nutshell, what do you do?
For the past 8 years, I have worked with Oxfam and UNICEF to provide lifesaving WASH services to those who are most vulnerable, for example people in IDP (internally displaced persons) camps and those affected by the ongoing protracted conflict.
What gets you out of bed every morning?
As you may know, Yemen is suffering from ongoing and protracted conflict since 2015 which has destroyed most WASH services in rural and urban areas of Yemen. I have enjoyed working on this field due to the nice feeling and impression when helping and contributing on providing WASH assistance to the people in need.
When you retire, what will you be most proud of in terms of your sanitation and hygiene work?
In 2014, the Oxfam Haradh/Sa’adah field office rehabilitated the water supply system and maintenance training for the village of Bani Helal, in northwest Yemen. Over 600 households had been suffering for years due to lack of access to safe water. As we were testing the water system, the children came out of their homes with great happiness and joy when they saw water in their area for the first time. I still remember the bright smiles on their faces as they played with water and mud. Until then, they had never believed they would get these services. These scenes stay with me to this day and constantly motivate me to continue my work in the field of WASH and contribute to the happiness of the hearts of children and all needy families alike. Unfortunately, exactly a year later in March 2015, the war began and within three months the residents of Bani Helal left their village until now.
The second thing is the sanitation facilities of a rural school called Al-Ansar School in Abs district on the same governorate, where girls used to drop out of school due to the lack of toilet facilities, and in August 2014, Oxfam rehabilitated three existing toilets and added 2 new toilets, allowing girls to be able to return to school.
What are the three biggest impacts COVID-19 has had on your sanitation and hygiene work?
COVID has had a huge economic impact at all levels: prices of hygiene materials such as soap have increased and now vulnerable people can’t afford these products. Funding has also been redirected and money from donors has also great reduced.
There has, however, been one positive impact in that people are now more interested in their hygiene practices and changing their behaviour.
How has being a member of the SuSanA discussion forum helped you?
I’ve been a member for almost five years. The exchange of ideas and experiences has been most useful. For example, the information about the urine diversion dehydration toilets in Yemen or the faecal management and urban sanitation knowledge that I’ve applied to my work at UNICEF. I hope that SuSanA continues to share more learning from different countries and different communities.
The Sanitation and Hygiene Fund has just been launched. In the next five years, what difference do you hope the fund will make in your country?
I hope that the Sanitation and Hygiene Fund will have to support Yemen as the need is huge in rural and urban areas.