How water projects are helping students in Yemen stay in school

Education is critical in breaking the cycle of poverty – and yet over half of the Tihama villages (the Red Sea coastal plain of Yemen) lack access to safe water and sanitation facilities. Lack of clean water has serious effects on students’ academic performance and attendance rates. Students miss class to fetch water or to care for sick parents or siblings.

Currently I am working with Oxfam on their Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Promotion (WASH) team. In our targeted areas, where we have ongoing WASH projects, it was noticed that a large percentage of the students in villages that don’t have water projects missed school, while those in villages with water projects missed far fewer days.

For girls, the situation is especially troublesome. If schools do not have proper toilets, girls drop out once they reach puberty. Further, it is typically the responsibility of the women to fetch water – thus limiting their access to both education and business opportunities.

In 2013, Oxfam received funds to implement WASH programs in five districts targeting 37 villages. The WASH program includes construction and rehabilitation of water supply systems, rehabilitation of school facilities, hygiene education etc. in the targeted villages.

Global Youth Ambassador Mohammed Adel Khudshi

School managers and students noticed that there is a big change in the rate of the students who attend school before and after the rehabilitation of water projects in the villages.

Think about it: every day, women and young girls carry more than 40 litres of water from sources over four miles away from their homes. This leaves little time for education, which is critical to changing the long-term prospects of developing Yemen.

To contribute to creating of good education environment, Oxfam has constructed 18 water projects and 10 new latrines in four schools, providing students with safe, clean water.

With the many additional burdens that a lack of clean water brings, education simply becomes less of a priority. This sets up an unfortunate cycle of poverty and inequality. Without a proper education, there is little chance of improving one’s situation later in life. The Water Project is working to break this cycle.