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New Creative Parenting Post

One of the most difficult things I have had to deal with here in Yemen is the lack of proper disposal of garbage. As the society has been inundated with convenience foods- such as cheese curls that cost the equivalent of about eight cents a bag- their old way of putting the garbage out for the goats to rummage through has caused a huge mess to be made. Whereas before the goats would rummage through and eat kitchen scraps, and cats and wild dogs would snap up any fish or meat that happened to be disposed of, now the animals can’t make a dent in the piles and bags of shiny wrappers and drink bottles.

Garbage field

This is the field next to our house

Most of the cities do have a garbage service, but in certain areas it may be months between their gathering up the refuse. A month or so ago a bulldozer came to get the garbage in the field next to my house. A fair amount of garbage was removed, but a lot of it stayed right where it was.  And every morning we see men and women going through the piles of refuse, looking for things they can sell to be re-used or recycled. Children play in the garbage as well, going through looking for interesting containers and things that they can use in their make-believe games. One day I saw a group of girls with two prescription medicine bottles, a plastic oil container, and some tuna cans. They played house with them. The ramifications for health and hygiene are staggering.

What is needed is a widespread program to teach people the issues surrounding the garbage…and perhaps some sort of punishment such as fines for not taking care of the garbage properly. This is done in Sana’a, and before the protests it was a relatively clean city. Some of the imaams at the masjids and centers address the issue as well. When we were in the village, one of the teachers regularly spoke about it from an Islamic perspective of caring for the land, and removing harm from the people.

So, what does garbage have to do with Creative Parenting? Find out by reading the latest in my series here.

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Janet Riehl on November 1, 2011 6:36 pm


I can see the garbage, the goats, the bulldozer, the children, the poor people rummaging for whatever they can find. I can see all this all too clearly.

When I lived in Ghana and Botswana in the 1970s, it was still in the age of goats as trash devourers…when trash was mostly organic. When I returned in 2008, the scene had changed. Even in the 1970s in India, the picture was more as you describe now in Yemen.

Another huge problem with the trash dumps from developed countries are the computer components. Not only does the local culture need educating, so does the origin of the material that becomes trash. There is lack of information, misinformation, and just plain lack of understanding when well-meaning people send things abroad.

Janet Riehl

Khadijah on November 4, 2011 3:05 am

The computer components issue is interesting- I know that someone brought up a similar concern with old television sets- that something in them can harm the children.
I have a friend here who sometimes sends her boys out to collect the trash around her neighborhood, even though her family didn’t contribute to it. It’s sad more people don’t do things like this, it might just catch on with everyone.