Through the Looking Glass

Posted February 25, 2019

Photos of the devastation of the protracted conflict in Yemen. | Photo credit: UNDP Yemen

An era gone by

A beautifully diverse country, Yemen sits at the southern end of the Arabian peninsula. Steeped in culture and rich in World Heritage Sites, Yemen once had a flourishing economy that played a vital role in the world’s ancient history in trade, architecture and innovation. Modern history, however, has painted a much more devastating picture for millions of Yemenis.  

A country in Rapid decline

Yemen was already poor before the war began in 2015. People lived on an average of US $4.5 a day. Unemployment hovered at 52 per cent. 

In 2016, after a rapid decline due to the conflict, the average Yemeni lived on an incredibly low US $1.8 a day, and the unemployment spiked above 60 per cent. 

The devastation of war

The ongoing conflict has had a devastating impact, causing poverty to spiral out of control and hurling the country back decades in its development. Many children are no longer being educated. Hospitals, power plants and roads have been destroyed. Wells are going dry, and many of those that have water have been contaminated with disease-causing bacteria because of people having to defecate in the open. Millions in need are not able to get healthcare. Once thriving community markets across the country are no longer operating. Mines and unexploded ordinance plague even the smallest villages, not allowing people to farm or walk freely around their communities, or their animals to graze in the fields.

Market places, small businesses and other means of potential income have shuttered, limiting the ability of Yemenis to earn an income. This has left millions unable to afford food, clean water and cooking fuel.

Reality check

It’s not that these things are unavailable in Yemen; they are. But people do not have enough money because of lack of income, high prices, and the continuously fluctuating currency. What someone was able to be purchase last month, last week or even yesterday, is out of reach today. The ever increasing cost of basic items leaves the option of buying lifesaving and critical items like food and water out of reach for millions. The lack of disposable income also means that families are unable to afford crucial medical treatment for malnutrition or water-borne diseases.

The world’s worst humanitarian disaster

Nearly 80 per cent of the 24 million Yemenis need assistance and protection. In a country with over 2,000 kilometres of coastline, amazingly, two-thirds of the 333 districts are in a state of pre-famine. Out of 20 million Yemenis who have insufficient food, 9.6 million don’t know where their next meal will come from and on the edge of famine. And an astounding 240,000 are facing horrific levels of hunger and are barely surviving. 

Around 3.3 million people have been forced to flee their homes because of the conflict - more than 600,000 in 2018 alone. Displacement is one of the key factors in the famine as people flee to places that are not able to support them, and they leave their families, homes and jobs behind.  The worst hunger is concentrated in areas that saw the fiercest conflict last year.

“After being forced to flee my home, my children and I went to bed hungry many nights. We didn’t find enough food to eat and there were times I told my children I wasn’t hungry so that whatever food I put on the table would be enough for them.” — Samiha

Looking to the future, working in the present

There are many international organizations working on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, but UNDP has a unique role in the ongoing response. We tackle immediate and ongoing needs in Yemen during the crisis, while continuing to help people, communities and institutions prepare for a future when the crisis is over.

We respond to food insecurity by helping fishermen and farmers continue to work. We provide cash-for-work and employment for people who have no other income. We promote the dignity of Yemenis as they rebuild their communities brick-by-brick, road-by-road. We provide solar power to allow schools to continue, hospitals to provide vaccines and small businesses to run late into the night.

In 2019 and beyond, with our implementing partners, UNDP continues to work with Yemen through one of their darkest hours.

Emergency employment

UNDP engages Yemenis around the country in emergency and temporary work opportunities in the construction and rehabilitation of small-scale infrastructure – such as wells, toilets, roads and schools – and in the delivery of social services like post-traumatic stress and nutrition counseling.

Our cash-for-work and wage employment benefits Yemenis right away by providing income and improving access to clean water, hospitals, schools and markets. Our emergency employment projects specifically target the most vulnerable – youth, women and the displaced – to help ensure the possibility of a stable income to sometimes otherwise forgotten or ignored populations.

  • Over 7.1 million employment work days created for crisis-affected people
  • Nearly 290,000 people from vulnerable households employed in cash-for-work programmes (indirectly benefiting over two million)

Small- and micro-businesses

UNDP support for small- and micro-businesses quickly boosts local markets and – in the longer term – generates income and employment opportunities. We offer training and start-up grants to help ensure businesses succeed.

  • Nine micro-finance institutions were given start-up grants
  • Over 7,000 small and micro-businesses received training and equipment

Infrastructure development

The prolonged conflict in Yemen has required considerable investment in repair, rehabilitation and construction of health facilities, schools, roads, electricity, water and other areas. Repairing and constructing these helps Yemenis get critical health and nutrition services. It enables children to continue to go to school, prevents the spread of diseases such as cholera, and helps protect against food insecurity.

Clean water and roads boost economies, resulting in increased productivity and sales for farmers, livestock producers and fishermen. Ensuring and improving these critical services reduces the need for humanitarian assistance.

  • Over 2.3 million people received water, education and improved roads
  • Nearly 2,500 classrooms refurbished
  • 370 kilometres (approximately 230 miles) of roads improved
  • Over 4,000 hectares (approximately 10 acres) of farmland built or improved
  • Over 220,000 people benefited from nutrition services (nearly 114,000 women | over 88,000 children)

Solar energy

The demand for reliable energy sources in Yemen is high and increasing. UNDP solar projects prioritize health facilities, schools, and water and sanitation infrastructure. Solar energy also helps keep businesses and markets going. UNDP is addressing food insecurity and famine risk within Yemen through ventures such as water pumping for irrigation and access to clean water for humans and livestock.

  • Over 167,000 people now have access to solar power
  • 31 schools have solar power, enabling students to study and teachers to teach
  • 2,400 households can now electrify their homes into the night, run small businesses and children can do their homework
  • Nine grocery stores have electricity enabling them to run for longer hours
  • 55 health facilities can now cool their vaccines and other medicines, allowing them to provide life-saving care for longer

Mine action

UNDP and partners want to ensure a safer environment to help Yemen build back better and stronger than before.

We work throughout Yemen to reduce or eliminate the impact that explosive ordnance has on the civilian population, infrastructure and economy. Through our partner, the Yemen Executive Mine Action Center (YEMAC), we support field operations that survey and clear mine-laden areas throughout the country. With nearly 1,000 deployable deminers, YEMAC has teams on the ground across the country working in the most dangerous areas.

  • Cleared 6.4 million square metres (approximately 1,581 acres) of land
  • Removed 120,000 explosive remnants of war
  • Destroyed 13,230 explosive remnants of war

By working with communities through our local partners, UNDP is helping to rebuild basic infrastructure that will help Yemenis rebound from the conflict and build resilience to potential difficulties in the future.

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