Gathering the rain in Yemen

Water SupplyFood ShortageHungerYemen

The crisis in Yemen continues. Three quarters of the population are in need of humanitarian assistance, including many children.

Tearfund’s partners are there, working with courage and determination to bring immediate relief and longer term support to those in most need.

Labelled the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, eight million people are facing starvation, while the largest cholera outbreak on record swept the country last year. According to UN data, nearly two million children are out of school, and 1.8 million children under the age of five are acutely malnourished.


  • Before the war, Yemen was the poorest country in the Middle East. It has a population of 28 million.
  • Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in terms of numbers – 22.3 million people need humanitarian assistance.
  • The country imports approximately 90 per cent of its food. Due to import blockades, eight million people are facing starvation.
  • In 2017, Yemen saw the biggest cholera outbreak on record – over one million cases were reported.

On Sunday 21 January, the UN launched a 2018 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan.

‘Humanitarian assistance is not the solution to the plight of the people of Yemen, but it is the only lifeline for millions of them,’ says Jamie McGoldrick, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen. The 2018 response plan is tailored not only to address the needs of the most vulnerable, but respond to them in a more sustainable and coordinated manner.

Long-term solutions
Because of this, many humanitarian organisations are working on projects that will provide solutions for Yemen in the long-term, in addition to providing shorter-term humanitarian aid.

One way Tearfund is helping is by supporting the construction of rainwater cisterns in Yemen, which last for up to 10 years. Cisterns are holes dug in the ground and then lined with bricks and cement. They can store rainwater water for communities for months.

Because Yemen is one of the world’s most water-poor countries, communities often are forced to truck water into villages – an expensive and labour-intensive option. Drilling wells is also expensive and depletes underground sources of water, which are already extremely low.

However, collecting and storing rainwater is a local, sustainable method of sourcing water for the community for up to three months – the duration of the dry season.

Life-sustaining water
In Hajjah, Tearfund is funding a project to construct eight cisterns in eight villages, helping provide water for 303 families.

The construction process begins by scoping the land to find suitable sites, excavating, making bricks and finally lining the hole in the ground with bricks and cement.

‘Clean water is an essential component for the health and wellbeing of all families in Yemen,’ says Megan Howe, Tearfund’s Programme Officer for Yemen. ‘But with the recent rise in prices of food, fuel and trucked water, families are forced to drink dirty water or travel extreme distances to fetch water for their families. These cisterns, along with hygiene education and the construction of household toilets, prevent life-threatening diseases and will help these communities for years to come.’

Andrew Horton

Andrew is Online News and Film Editor for Tearfund. This involves finding and writing up inspiring articles for the website, and capturing compelling stories on video.