The seven-year-old conflict and Yemen’s enduring crisis has been described as one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
Yemenis are living a nightmare and have not known a day of rest since the conflict began in 2015. Every day, it is a struggle for many to find food, employment, medicines, shelter, and to cover their basic needs. Of the little that remains, the prices are inflated to the point where civilians can no longer afford the cost of basic sustenance.
Over 17 million people in Yemen are experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity while nearly 2.2 million children under the age of 5 need immediate treatment for acute malnutrition.
Yemen was not in a better situation even before the conflict due to its instability, ailing economy, chronic unemployment, and its dependence on imported goods with up to 90 per cent of its food and 70 per cent of its fuel.
However, the protracted conflict has destroyed livelihoods and businesses. The value of the Yemeni currency is steadily declining; the fuel crisis is ongoing; many public workers are unpaid; and the health system is incapable of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and other epidemics.
This has compounded the already heavy burdens Yemenis carry. Worry is often pervasive and assumes the form of psychological distress as the concerns about livelihoods, children’s education and health, and costs associated with food affordability and housing, and whether or not they must once again flee the conflict.
Yemen is classified as a fragile country sitting at the bottom of many human, social, and economic development indices as Yemen has suffered conflict and instability for decades. The spread of poverty, hunger, and unemployment goes beyond individual suffering, pulling at the very social fabric, sense of community, and the feeling of belonging.
Over half a decade of partnership
Against these daunting conditions, the World Bank – through funding from its International Development Association (IDA) – has worked with UNDP Yemen and the Social Fund for Development (SFD) and the Public Works Project (PWP) – key national institutions – since 2016 to help Yemenis reduce dependency on aid, better their self-reliance and regain their dignity.
Through the US$400 million Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project (YECRP), the World Bank and UNDP has recognized that if income-generation and livelihood opportunities are restored and increased for the most vulnerable groups (including youth, internally displaced persons), then households will become stronger, better able to cope, and capable of assisting and contributing to their communities.
The impact of YECRP across Yemen has been tremendous, helping the Yemeni people regain access to key services, earning wages to allow them to purchase basic needs for themselves and their families, supporting their micro and small businesses to improve their income and continue local goods and services, and – most importantly – restoring their dignity.
Creating work opportunities to build back stronger: With nearly 450,000 people (44.6% youth; 21.7% female; 19.9% Internally Displaced Persons/Returnees) provided with cash and work to build back their communities, over 5.5 million people have gained access to lifesaving services, such as water, food, health, education, roads, safe sanitation.
By providing cash together with training and capacity building in a broad variety of skills and creating jobs in small-scale community infrastructure, many Yemenis are employed to build back their communities and are regaining their sense of hope for a better tomorrow. And in focusing on vulnerable families, particularly women and youth, the project has helped the most vulnerable to benefit from short-term sources of income to provide for their families.
Supporting Micro-, Small- and Medium-Enterprises: Not only has YECRP supported national microfinance institutions to continue providing their financial services to over 57,000 micro and small businesses, but the project has also directly provided 16,700 micro and small enterprises across Yemen on the verge of collapse with access to finance, capacity building, and market integration. This has helped improve their income, continue providing local goods and services in their local communities, and create additional employment.
Building food security resilience: As one of the most food insecure countries in the world, the World Bank-UNDP partnership with SFD and PWP has worked together to build food security resilience in Yemen. This has been achieved through rehabilitating nearly 24,000 hectares (approximately 59,300 acres) of farmland and helped nearly 12,000 farmers, livestock keepers, and fishermen (20% female) to increase their production and improve their income.
Safeguarding Yemen’s future: Not only does malnutrition contribute to around 45% of deaths in children (less than 5 years old), but Yemen’s future is also at high risk if millions of its children grow stunted, unhealthy, and weak. This will have irreversible social and economic impacts for decades to come.
To address that, the World Bank-UNDP’s partnership with SFD has recognized the comparative value of conditional cash transfers over direct food distribution. They have provided not only monetary support for over 200,000 mothers with malnourished children to purchase nutritious food, but also focused on building their knowledge and good practices on child nutrition and care to keep their children healthy and strong. This has resulted in over 115,000 children under the age of five being treated from malnutrition.
Investing in local capacity: The unique foundation of the World Bank-UNDP partnership in Yemen is working together with key national partners – SFD and PWP – to maintain and shore up their capacity and ensure they continue to deliver their lifesaving services to millions of Yemenis and support to vital recovery programmes.
Both SFD and PWP in Yemen provide a model of how rewarding it is to utilize and invest in existing local and national capacities to deliver development aid in crisis affected locations, while using a community-based approach. The approach focuses on empowering and working directly with local communities in compensating for the limited capacity or absence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as the weakness of local governments.
By encouraging community ownership – and them determining priorities that will enhance the quality of their lives – communities actively participate in the planning and construction of infrastructure that will change their lives.
Scaling up support
Building upon the success of YECRP, UNDP and the World Bank have signed another two funds – the Social Protection Enhancement and COVID-19 Response Project (SPECRP) (US$ 61.4 million) and Yemen Food Security Response and Resilience Project (FSRRP) (US$ 23.8 million) – to scale up their emergency response and support for social protection interventions and food security resilience through cash transfers, livelihoods restoration, and provision of key services.
Through IDA’s support and partnership in Yemen, UNDP and the World Bank are ensuring that support reaches the most vulnerable communities and institutions that have been otherwise cut off from traditional financing. This support is necessary for the resilience of the population and fragile communities; it is crucial in post-conflict reconstruction and creating a sustainable recovery.