Editor’s Note: Many of the roughly 7,000 people International Medical Corps employs around the world are fathers, who frequently find themselves far from home during special times in their children’s lives, because our humanitarian work can take them to distant, dangerous places. To acknowledge their sacrifices—often made to ease the plight of children less fortunate than their own—we mark this Father’s Day with a letter from Wasim Bahja, our Yemen Country Director, to his daughter Zaina. He wrote the letter after missing her 10th birthday.
I pray you, Leena and Mum are well. I heard that the weather has been exceptionally nice there! Thank you sweetheart, for showing your understanding for what caused me to cancel my plans of being home with you last month on your 10th birthday. Your Mum sent me the photos from the birthday party, and you looked so happy and glamorous. Leena, Mum and all your friends looked to be having great fun too.
As a grown-up young lady who has just turned 10, I feel you are now old enough that I can share more with you about my work in the very poor, far-off country called Yemen. I am here, together with other members of the International Medical Corps country team, to help children and their families who, through no fault of their own, find themselves trapped in a war that has come to their homeland.
We are doing our best to heal the sick, to get food and nourishment to those who need it most and provide safe water where it is in short supply. We even teach children your age what you have already learned—that good hygiene habits such as washing hands before meals and staying clean are keys to good health.
But unlike home—where food, water and good healthcare are never far away—here in Yemen life is extremely difficult for both children and their parents. The majority are constantly hungry because there is so little food available. Many children your age have no idea where their next meal will come from, and age-old diseases that have all but disappeared from England, America and other developed countries remain a threat in Yemen.
One of those dangers is cholera, a disease that thrives in dirty, unsafe water. People get cholera mostly because they don’t have enough clean water, so they end up drinking from dirty rivers and other polluted water sources. The cholera bacteria can make people so sick so quickly that it can kill someone—especially a child—within a very short time.
Sadly, when we learned that cholera had erupted suddenly in a village not far away from us just a few days before your birthday, I felt I needed to stay in Yemen with other members of our team to help care for those children, mothers and fathers who were fighting to survive. I know it was sad for us both for me to be so far away on your birthday, but I hope you agree that if my presence helps our team save even a single life, then our time together when I do get home will be even happier!
In my next letter to you, dear Zaina, I will tell you how my team and I managed to save people’s lives from such an awful illness.
Again, thank you for not being mad at me for missing your birthday party.