Building capacity in Middle-East and North Africa states (MENA-CD)

Written by Yaman Attar, on 15 April 2021

The MENA region includes the nations of the Middle-East and North Africa that share similar water challanges in terms of scarcity and resources availability. Many of the MENA countries depend heavily on already depleting groundwater resources and on desalinated sea water. Water scarcity is a long known issue in the region, but it has been exacerbated by adverse impacts of climate change, increased population, conflict-inflicted internal displacement and refugee crises. For those reasons, building capacities of water professionals is a key-step towards solving water-related issues in the region, a step IHE Delft is keen to undergo by supporting students from that region by offering various MSc programmes.

Scope and students

The MENA fellowship programme started under DUPC2 with the aim to support local capacity development in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region to cope with water scarcity. The countries of this region are listed among the world’s highest water stressed, with the least renewable water resources per capita. The programme offers fully accredited MSc degrees to professionals in one of the water, environment and development specialsations at IHE Delft.

IHE Delft has interviewed a few newly admitted MSc students from the MENA region who have applied for this fellowship programme. Sherine Hazem Abdulrazek Hassan Elwattar from Egypt, Fuad Alqrinawi from Jordan and Arzaq Ahmed from Yemen have all shared their sentiments about studying in Delft.

General sentiments

‘’You quickly realise that everyone is different, you look for people that fit with your ideas and character’’ says Sherine, describing her introduction week at IHE Delft.

Fuad’s input on his first week and impression defines the stress that he was not accustomed to: ‘everything I encountered was more stressful than I am used to. I’d say the workload is really heavy especially for WSE students’’.

Arzaq in return reminds us of the goal she set her mind upon starting with IHE: ‘After the civil war in my country, we started having sewage floods everywhere. The worst time when this occurred people actually died because of the poor drainage system in my city. The government should do something about this but I also want to be a part of the solution.  And I would love to help!’’

Sherine Elwattar

Sherine Elwattar Holds a Bachelor's in Civil Engineering and comes from Cairo, Egypt. She worked in the water sector for 2.5 years before coming to IHE at the Water Management and Governance programme.

Passion for water

She elaborates beautifully on her passion for water and its relation to water problems in her home country: ‘’Human experiences require resilience. At some point of my life, I connected resilience with water. I came across this quote that said: ‘’don’t be the rock stuck in the water, be the water that passes through the rock’’. The water is so patient that the rock can dissolve, water is soft and fluid and it accomplishes what it wants. This affected me a lot because I connected this with resilience. At home, I see the Nile every day. The Nile is very important, it is part of my culture and existence. That is why I am so fascinated to study water.’’

Water issues in Eygpt

On that she explains: ‘’In Egypt we depend completely on the Nile, which is always mentioned as the number one source of water. But every time you pass by it, you see that it is polluted. I do not understand why no one is regulating or governing the state of the Nile In Egypt, they depend a lot on development projects and funding that is coming from foreign organisations and usually for those projects you have to reach out to as many beneficiaries as possible. The easiest way to do that is though awareness raising.’’

Fuad Alqrinawi

Fuad Alqrinawi acquired his Bachelor's of Civil Engineering and comes from Jordan. He heard about IHE from his professor, who is also an IHE Delft Alumni and water expert Dr. Naser Al Manaseer.

Application and admission

Fuad applied and got admitted to the Hydrology and Water Resources programme: ‘’I am really interested in environmental issues and especially in water, since I am living in a water scarce country. I was hearing about water scarcity in Jordan since I was little, and I was only hearing about these issues but not about solutions, this is why I want to be a water professional, someone who can be capable of solving these issues, and pursuing a MSc degree here is a great first step’’ says Fuad on how IHE Delft can equip him with sufficient expertise.

Water issues in Jordan

He then talks about water-related issues which inspired him to become a water professional: ‘’There are only 3 rivers in Jordan, 2 of which are tributaries of the Jordan River. The issue is that the Yarmouk river is dammed from the upstream in Syria and so we don’t receive the flow that we are supposed to receive. While Al Zarqa river is located in the most habitable and industrialised area in Jordan and thus contamination levels are high. We don’t really use the few resources we have in the best possible ways.’’

he continues: ‘’we can’t deny the fact that Jordan has hosted a large number of refugees since 1948 from Palestine and recently 2011 from Syria, so there is a huge stress on the water sector as well’’.

Arzaq Ahmed

Arzaq Ahmed holds a Bachelor's Degree in Civil Engineering and was working as a lecturer at the University of Aden before coming to IHE Delft at the Sanitary Engineering programme.

On why she chose IHE Delft: ‘’I was always interested in the water sector, especially after the start of the Yemeni Civil War, during which the basic infrastructure was heavily damaged, increasing environmental contamination, which consequently put the environment at risk. I thought that this is an issue I can do something about and help my country with.

Benefits at IHE Delft

The benefits of studying here can be summed in: acquiring a lot of information since I started. It helped me reach another high level of education.’’ She continues: ‘’I have been in lockdown since the first day, but in fact, we are 3 students who came from Yemen so we were in contact [from the start] and I got one of my colleagues at IHE Delft who is also my roommate. I didn’t feel I am alone in this new environment since I got this social contact with these people.’’

Additional information

These interviews with Sherine, Fuad and Arzaq were conducted by Yaman Attar, Pooja Sadarangani and Rachelle Dwarka .

Read more on MENA CD-Fellowships here.

Cover photo: THULA, YEMEN - MAY 5: An unidentified woman uses a public fountain basin on May 5, 2007 in Thula, Yemen. Among other Arabic countries, in 2012 Yemen became a site of civil conflicts. dinosmichail on Shuttershock.com

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