How toilets restore dignity in Yemen

The trauma any stroke patient goes through is harrowing. Imagine not only suffering a stroke but suffering it in the context of persisting war. This is the story of Fatimah Al Abdi from Dhahran village in Bani al Awam, Hajjah Governorate, Yemen.

Fatimah Al Abdi finds herself paralysed at the age of 65. Life in Dhahran is difficult for anyone living there – let alone someone impaired at the age of retirement. To make matters worse, Dhahran is remote and difficult to access. Food and medical care are hard to come by, and with the country’s persisting crisis, the daily struggle for survival has only become harder.

Humiliating condition

Due to Fatimah’s condition, she is confined to her home on the second floor of an apartment building. There is no way of getting around the house on her own. Her physical impairment made it impossible for her to use a toilet, something we so often take for granted. As a result, Fatimah’s family and friends had to help her relieve herself in a bucket. When they were not around, however, she inevitably had to soil herself and get cleaned by her children later.

The most humiliating condition in the world is not poverty – it is losing one’s dignity.

When ZOA set its sights on Dhahran village to carry out a latrine programme, an opportunity arose to meet Fatimah’s sanitation needs. ZOA offered Dhahran a “village package deal.” This means families are given construction materials, tools, and the flexibility to construct a sanitation solution that best suits their needs. In buildings that house more than one family, for example, beneficiaries may decide to use facilities together. Designs are adapted again and again to meet the needs of each family.

Overcome with joy

In the case of Fatimah Al Abdi, ZOA was able to help her family construct an ancillary toilet – tailored to Fatimah’s specific needs. On the second floor of Fatimah’s building, her community installed a western-style toilet that is flushed with kitchen water and was connected to the same cesspit as the compound’s main toilet. To Fatimah, the solution is life changing. Though she continues to require her family’s assistance, her dignity was restored. No longer she relieves herself in a bucket – or worse.

When Fatimah realised her community valued her so much they had installed a toilet just for her, she couldn’t believe it. She was overcome with joy and gratitude. Her dignity was restored.

Click here to read more about our challenging yet rewarding programme in Yemen.