Yemen is home to arguably the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet. Civil war continues to rage on since its beginning in 2015, and a majority of the 30 million citizens of Yemen are suffering from malnutrition. In short, Yemen is really not the place one would go looking for optimism, or even hope. But that’s the currency the people working to alleviate Yemen’s humanitarian disaster deal in.
Aid workers in Yemen are well aware of how dire the situation in Yemen is. They know, for instance, that more than 100 health facilities have closed as a result of the war. And yet, they maintain hope. How? According to Nestor Owumuhangi, the country representative in Yemen with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), it’s all a matter of perspective.
Knowing that 80% of the population is facing a humanitarian crisis is crushing, but knowing how many of them are helped every day isn’t. Yes, he said, the support to victims of violence that UNFPA can support only reaches a very small fraction of the women who need it. But it has still helped some 10,000 women so far.
True, many health facilities have been shut down and more might soon follow, but the ones that managed to stay open delivered in 2019 more than 5,000 live babies from mothers who didn’t die of pregnancy-related causes. Less than 6% of the women in the country who need reproductive care have been reached by UNFPA services. But that is, in this year alone, 700,000 women. From Owomuhangi’s perspective, hundreds of thousands of people are getting a chance—and that is many, many lives, even if it’s just a small percentage of all the ones that need help.
All of us can learn from Owomuhangi and his approach to the crisis in Yemen. Whether it’s the climate crisis or homelessness in the community, we shouldn’t be deterred knowing that our efforts alone won’t solve the entire issue. Rather, we should take hope and pride in the fact that our efforts make a difference, even if that difference only leads to a small percentage increase in the improvement of any given situation. After all, there are human stories behind those tiny improvements.