In the expansive desert strip of Tehama in western Yemen, life can be extremely cruel. Here you will find children who are malnourished, tired-looking with faces that show nothing but hopelessness. Children as young as 10 are often forced to beg for money from the streets in order to supplement family income.
Here families live from hand to mouth. Lack of access to safe water, inadequate healthcare and poor shelter are compounded by environmental degradation caused by reckless dumping of waste which poses serious health hazards. The majority of the children drop out of school due to extreme poverty since they cannot afford a school uniform, writing materials or in most cases food.
Through a Progressio project funded by Irish Aid, ten local partner organisations have been working closely with rural communities. Using participatory techniques and workshops, the inhabitants of the village of Al Sharkiya in Al Marawa District of Hodeida Governorate here in Yemen have been able to articulate and prioritise their needs.
As a result the communities have been able to come up with very pragmatic solutions for their problems which are highly focused on their needs. By supporting local partner Reach Out Foundation for Human Development, street children have been supported to enable them to continue with their education. The organisation provides school fees, uniform and meals to these orphans and street children.
In addition, other partner organisations like Abo Mousa Al Ashary Social Charitable Association as well as Water and Environmental Sanitation (WES) Group have been actively involved in supporting communities to develop projects on water and sanitation.
All in all, the smiles that greet you when you visit the Al Sharkiya village are a sign of hope. Whilst many other vulnerable communities have still to be reached by these services this is a clear manifestation of what a little intervention can achieve making a big difference in the lives of marginalised people.
Joseph Omondi Aloo is a Progressio development worker in Hodeida, Yemen
Joseph is pictured with a community elder