A day in the life: Mariam, Child Protection Manager, Yemen
Meet Mariam Adnan, our roving child protection manager in Yemen. With your support, Mariam and her colleagues can devote themselves to helping children suffering in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
6:30: I’m awake earlier than usual after a disturbed night. There were airstrikes on Sana’a where I live. Sadly, they are very regular now, but they don’t stop me looking forward to the week ahead. I love my job even though the circumstances in Yemen are very challenging.
I look out from our little rooftop space, over at the tumble of buildings around and beneath me. Times are so hard for my country, but my husband and I have created this tiny, but beautiful, quiet spot on our roof. Just a few minutes here supports me through the day. It’s important that those of us who work in difficult situations find peace and support where we can.
I water my plants and make Yemeni coffee which I look forward to every morning. We are very proud of our coffee in Yemen – it has a very ancient history. These days young Yemeni people are appreciating the heritage of our coffee and starting up businesses to export to the world.
7:30: My drive to work takes around 15 minutes. I always stop at a very old street hawker who sells tissues in our neighbourhood. We say good morning, I ask for his blessings and buy some tissues, by now I have rather a lot of them! I respect this man very much. He represents strength and continuity despite the difficulties. His glorious eyes and warm smile make my day.
On the streets children and parents rush to school. Despite all challenges, life goes on and people are pulling their way through. It gives me hope for the children we help too.
Unfortunately, I need fuel. This means black market fuel at a mini station. These stations are unregulated, can be quite dangerous and always change locations. But they’re our only fuel option and the price has tripled in a few months. Finding fuel can take a long time and once found, it might be unaffordable. Thankfully, today I get some.
8:30: I arrive at Save the Children office, and head for my little office right beside our kitchen and well-being area. I like these spaces; it’s a good way to greet everyone and start the day. I can hear how people are doing and chat to them easily. Today, we talk about last night’s airstrikes. Who heard, who woke up and who went back to sleep normally. We all used to be afraid during the strikes, but now we have adapted. I know such adaptation is a negative thing, but it’s about coping. Many people look very tired, but they summon up nice smiles to get through the day.
9:30: The field teams’ meeting is remote on laptops, Zoom and dependent on the state of internet access. There are always periods of cutting in and out, and asking if we can hear each other, but we know we have to make it positive to get our jobs done.
We have 20 child protection team members. Their jobs are so challenging. Yemen is the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis and our children suffer greatly. They face attacks on their homes and schools. They die from entirely preventable causes – hunger, or treatable illnesses and diseases. An estimated 2.3 million children under five in Yemen are expected to go hungry or be on the brink of starvation by the end of this year. That’s half of all children in that age bracket.
Our Yemen Save the Children field teams are in the front line of this – working 24/7. The demands on them are enormous; the communities have high expectations of big international NGOs. Sadly, none of us can move mountains, but I am continually amazed at our teams’ innovation.
These are children injured through the ongoing conflict, unaccompanied and separated children, those hurt through gender-based violence…the list is never ending. So, the load on the field team is huge; lack of funding means there are very few government authorities or international bodies who can help. The situation is very difficult. Yet, I believe that innovations are born from hardships. Yemeni humanitarian aid workers are always challenged, but they never give up and they find a way to deliver support. I am proud to be one of them. We talk also about my visit to them in a couple of weeks. They ask what I need and I ask what they need from me regarding practical support and resources.
My field visits take a lot of planning. I need appropriate authority and paperwork to get through the various checkpoints. Sometimes I travel for more than 17 hours driving through mountains and sometimes unsafe roads. But I never complain – field teams go through this daily just to reach remote project sites. The places I go don’t have internet connections and sometimes the phones are not working. Preparation is key.
13:00: I finish the meeting and wish everyone safety and success. It’s lunchtime. I sit with colleagues in our kitchen. We eat, speak and support each other with work and family issues. Some people are on their laptops working or having meetings. We all wish the day was longer than 24 hours because of the challenges we face, the commitment we have to our communities, and to the donors who support us.
15:00: Good news from a field team member regarding our mental health and psychosocial support programme. She has exciting feedback from a mother whose daughter suffered a terrible and disabling injury during the war. Thanks to our support, the little girl has started to laugh and talk again and is asking to go back to school so she can study to be a doctor. The mother has thanked Save the Children for saving her daughter’s life. I smile widely – this makes our work so worthwhile.
16:45: I’ve finished for the day. The office empties around 4pm because many people start early. But one colleague, often the first one in and the last one out, still types quickly. I smile and tell him to go home to his family. He laughs, points at his laptop and says: “This is my family now!” This is true for many of us. We feel part of the Save the Children family and support each other through good times and bad.
18:00: On our peaceful rooftop heaven, Wael* and I sit with our tea. I can see he has had a tough day – he runs a youth civil society organisation which covers four governorates in Yemen. But we ignore our worries this evening and just enjoy each other’s company. I think about reading my book, but take out my laptop and finish some work instead.
23:00: I go to bed thinking of our challenges just to do a job elsewhere can be done more easily. Then I remember the little girl who has made so much progress. It makes me smile and I go to sleep hoping for no air strikes tonight.