• Monica Chiriac | Media and Communications Officer

The decade-long conflict in Yemen has left millions without access to basic services, especially displaced populations living in inadequate conditions. According to the 2024 Humanitarian Needs Overview, 17.4 million people are currently in need of water, sanitation and hygiene assistance – nearly half of the country’s population.

West Coast, Yemen – Mariam fled with her family from Ta’iz six years ago to join relatives in Yakhtol. Before the rehabilitation of the water supply system in the area, she used to send her 8-year-old daughter to fetch water from a collection point three kilometres from their shelter.

“I used to worry about her from the moment she left until she came back,” recounts the mother of six. Now that the responsibility of collecting water no longer falls on her daughter, Mariam is finally considering sending her to school.

Despite the challenges, Yemeni women persistently collect water for their families, often walking long distances to reach water points. Photo: IOM/Monica Chiriac

The rehabilitation of the Yakhtol water supply system is one of 17 community-led water projects that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is undertaking along the West Coast. The initiative in Yakhtol involved constructing a collective water tank, installing solar pumping units and a generator, and setting up an equipment room. As a result, more than 14,000 people are now benefiting from access to clean water in the district.

“Before the supply system was rehabilitated, we distributed water according to a very strict schedule, so that everyone could have access to a minimum supply,” explains Saleh Al Shathely, Head of Water Supply Management in Yakhtol. Thanks to the current flow of water reaching people’s homes day and night, the impact has been huge.

“People don’t fight over water anymore,” Saleh explains.

Water committees are vital for ensuring the upkeep of water and sanitation systems in affected communities, particularly in sites for internally displaced persons (IDPs). Photo: IOM/Monica Chiriac

The ongoing conflict in Yemen has forced many people along the west coast to flee from frontline areas to seek refuge in safer locations, often within host communities. In districts where new waves of IDPs continue to arrive, the existing water facilities are insufficient to meet the growing demand.

Despite the infrastructure established decades ago, a significant portion has fallen into disrepair due to the conflict, especially the pumping units and reservoirs. While past efforts from local authorities and different organizations have helped, water access remains inconsistent and over 20 million people still do not have access to enough water to cover their basic daily needs.

To mitigate water-related conflict, IOM’s interventions aim to enhance water infrastructure, develop local capacity for conflict management, and implement sustainable solutions for long-term stability. This approach seeks to reduce aid dependency and alleviate social tensions in affected communities.

The availability of clean drinking water remains a pressing concern, especially in areas where recent displacement to urban areas has strained existing services. Photo: IOM/Monica Chiriac

In rural areas, women play a pivotal role in agricultural activities, including water collection for household needs. They often have to walk on foot for several kilometres to access water points, significantly impacting their daily lives. While donkeys are sometimes used to help carry the water, women still bear the responsibility of hoisting the jerrycans onto them.

Families also face health challenges amid harsh conditions, as the arduous journey to fetch water not only consumes valuable time but also poses health risks, especially during scorching summer months when temperatures soar. By addressing water supply needs, IOM aims to support communities who currently depend on costly water trucking while also shielding them from waterborne diseases such as cholera.

Two young girls take turns carrying heavy jerrycans, highlighting the daily challenge faced by local communities in accessing clean water. Photo: IOM/Monica Chiriac

In certain coastal areas, rising salinity levels has led to the abandonment of wells and degraded soil quality, with a huge impact on farming. According to the latest report on Migration, Environment, and Climate Change in Yemen, climate change is anticipated to compound these challenges, with rising temperatures, unpredictable rainfall patterns, and the continuing degradation and desertification of land.

IOM’s rehabilitation of water supplies encompasses a comprehensive approach, tackling critical challenges by repairing pipelines, expanding storage capacity, and integrating solar-powered pumping systems. This addresses critical water supply challenges and ensures reliable access to water.

The establishment and restoration of water infrastructure significantly enhances the farmers’ agricultural outputs. Photo: IOM/Monica Chiriac

“If there is no water, there is no farming, and if there is no farming, there is no money,” explains 30-year-old Abdullah, who has worked his entire life as a farmer in Moshij in the Al Khawkha District.

Like many other Yemeni farmers, he relies on his onion crops to make a living but also cultivates carrots, watermelons, and chili. He sells them at the local market to traders for resale in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. During the off-season, he switches to fishing, another common profession along Yemen’s West Coast, where access to water is plentiful.

However, the ongoing conflict has severely affected Yemen’s agriculture and fisheries sectors, two significant contributors to the country’s GDP and food supply. Farmers in Yemen are now facing significant challenges due to reduced water availability, impacting their productivity.

In Yemen’s coastal areas, many people work as both farmers and fishermen, adapting to the season’s demands. Photo: IOM/Monica Chiriac

To support over 6,700 people, including farmers, in Moshij, IOM has undertaken extensive efforts, including drilling a new well, constructing an elevated water tank, extending the water network, and establishing maintenance and water points in displacement sites.

“Before the rehabilitation of the water supply system in Moshij, I used to wait for hours at the water point,” recalls Abdullah. While the new supply now covers his needs with a direct flow to his house, he believes that it will take time to cover the community’s entire irrigation needs. “These days, I’m just excited for my watermelons to grow and make a profit during Ramadan,” he shares.

IOM’s rehabilitation of the water supply in Yakhtol is funded by USAID’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance, while the rehabilitation of the water supply in Moshij is funded by the Yemen Humanitarian Fund.

This story was written by Monica Chiriac, Media and Communications Officer with IOM Yemen.

SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
SDG 16 - Peace Justice and Strong Institutions
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities