Yemen. A country with a rich history and a stunning beauty all its own. The capital, Sana’a, looks to most foreigners like something out of Arabian Nights.
But in recent years, it is also a country of turbulence and violence. Since 2011, a civil war has divided the country.
The Yemeni people have suffered greatly because of the chaos. The United Nations recently reported that over 24 million people in Yemen are in need of humanitarian aid – more than any other country.
What do the Yemeni people need? The list is long but the most urgent are food, water, and health services. The strife has resulted in a famine which is causing 17 million people to suffer. As the country’s water infrastructure has been devastated by the conflict and its natural aquifers dry up, safe drinking water has become scarce. This has caused the largest, fastest-spreading cholera outbreak in modern history. Suspected cases of cholera have reached nearly a million people.
Ismail* and his family of seven are among the innocent who have suffered.
Ismail was a teacher in the village school. When the war broke out, their village was struck often by random air strikes.
“We were forced to flee our home to save ourselves. We sought refuge in the mountain caves,” Ismail shared. “We lived there with other people from our village. We shared our food. We rationed our food so that we were eating only one meal a day. Leaving the cave to collect supplies was a scary risk to take. We were afraid of becoming collateral damage during another air strike. We wanted to shelter in the caves as long as possible.”
Ismail, his family, and the villagers were able to remain in the caves for four months. But then all their food ran out, as did their options. They had to return to the village to search out supplies.
“We returned home, in spite of our fears. But it was really hard. I hadn’t received a salary for months so we couldn’t buy food. Our neighbours shared what they had with us. And we relied on relatives who went to Sana’a to bring back food to share with us.”
These were dark days for Ismail. He watched, helpless, as his family suffered from hunger and sickness. He felt utterly powerless as he was unable to provide for them or protect them from disease.
Ismail learned that an NGO named ADRA was going to be working in his village. He learned that ADRA would be distributing food baskets that would sustain a family for one month.
“Once we heard ADRA was intervening in our area with food baskets, I felt a ray of light shine on me for the first time in a long time. It was a weight off my shoulders that I cannot describe,” Ismail said.
ADRA, in partnership with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, conducted a humanitarian project in Ismail’s region. At first glance, the project was primarily about food. However, it also addressed the importance of nutrition in combatting malnourishment. In addition, it raised life-saving awareness regarding clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. Over six months, ADRA distributed food to 6,300 people in the area. Ismail and his family were among those who received support.
“When I received my food basket, I was surprised to find that ADRA was conducting awareness sessions on food diversity and how I can keep my children healthy. I found this especially beneficial because my children were malnourished.
“My children also often suffered from diarrhea. I learned in the ADRA sessions that this was due to the unclean and unsafe water we were drinking and using to clean with.
“My perspective on food and water changed with these simple sessions. They enlightened me and showed me how to protect my family from life-endangering threats.”
In the face of so much need, it can often feel like what we do is but a drop in the bucket. How can we meaningfully help when there are too many who need it? These questions can debilitate and paralyze, and we may wind up doing nothing. Or, we may feel like the little we do is not nearly enough.
But Ismail is certainly grateful for the help you, through ADRA, have given him and his family.
“The lives of my family have changed for the better,” he said. “I no longer live in a constant state of fear. I have been fortunate enough to return to teaching and I am teaching children what I learned from ADRA’s awareness sessions. When I return home every day, I feel reassured because my children’s food is provided for and they are drinking purified water that will not cause them harm.
“What may seem like a simple intervention has really changed my life.”
We must remember that the little we can do can mean a world of difference to the ones we do help. By doing something – however seemingly small – we are saving lives. They may “only” be a few thousand lives among millions. However, if we truly believe that each life is of infinite value to God, we should do the good we are able to do.
We never know the full impact of our actions. ADRA helped Ismail and his family of seven, but in reality, many more have been reached. Ismail is teaching the knowledge ADRA shared about nutrition, sanitation, and hygiene to his students. Those students share this knowledge with their families. They may share this knowledge with their own children one day. Through one life, many are touched.
God gives us opportunities to help His beloved children, our brothers and sisters. We are not able to bring peace, stability, and prosperity to Yemen. However, we mustn’t be discouraged because we think we aren’t doing enough. We must trust God with the ones we can’t reach as we move forward in faith to help the ones we can.