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Overview

  • Yemen has been embroiled in conflict since early 2015. Already the poorest country in the Middle East and North Africa region before the conflict escalated, now, according to the UN, Yemen is suffering the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Fighting has devastated the economy, destroyed critical infrastructure, and led to food insecurity verging on famine: In 2019, the UN estimated that 24.1 million people—80% of the population—was “at risk” of hunger and disease, of whom roughly 14.3 million were in acute need of assistance. 

    An estimated 17.8 million people were without safe water and sanitation, and 19.7 million without adequate healthcare. As a result, Yemen has been grappling with mass outbreaks of preventable diseases, such as cholera, diphtheria, measles, and Dengue Fever. Waves of currency depreciations in 2018 and 2019 have created inflationary pressure that exacerbated the humanitarian crisis, and disruptions to public infrastructure and financial services have severely affected private sector activity.

    More than 40% of Yemeni households are estimated to have lost their primary source of income and, consequently, find it difficult to buy even the minimum amount of food. Poverty is worsening: Whereas before the crisis, it affected almost half the country’s population of about 29 million, now it affects an estimated three-quarters of it—71% to 78% of Yemenis. Women are more severely affected than men.

    Economic and social prospects, both in 2020 and beyond, are uncertain, hinging critically on the political and security situation. Most recently, the compounded threats of continued conflict, the spread of COVID-19, extensive flooding, and locusts are pushing the country close to catastrophe. The affordability of food is a rapidly emerging threat to household welfare, as preexisting global food price increases and the depreciation of the Yemeni rial interact with COVID-19-related trade restrictions by food exporters. 

    Yemen’s import dependence is increasing because of the impact of desert locusts is having on the cropping season. A cessation of the violence and hope for political reconciliation and the reintegration of vital state institutions would improve the operational environment for the private sector, facilitating the reconstruction of the economy and the rebuilding of the country’s social fabric.

    Last Updated: May 01, 2020

  • The World Bank Group’s Engagement Strategy for Yemen 2020–2021 remains focused on preserving basic services and the institutions that deliver them, and supporting people’s livelihoods and the potential for economic recovery. Its priorities are preserving institutional capacity, improving the resilience of service delivery, and providing support to conflict-affected poor and vulnerable Yemenis. The strategy also aims to encourage immediate economic growth by creating temporary jobs and supporting the private sector.

    The World Bank—through its concessional arm, IDA—has been providing large-scale emergency grants to Yemen during the conflict. Using an innovative partnership with the UN, IDA has financed $1.727 billion in emergency interventions, investing in people and the institutions they rely on for critical services. 

    The IDA portfolio comprises six active projects: (1) the Emergency Crisis Response Project, US$848.58 million; (2) the Emergency Health and Nutrition Project, US$638 million (3) the Emergency Integrated Urban Services Project, US$150 million; (4) the Emergency Electricity Access Project, US$50 million; and (5) The Yemen COVID-19 Response Project, US$26.9 million. An additional project, (6) the US$36 million Smallholder Agricultural Production Restoration and Enhancement Project, is financed by the Global Agriculture Food Security Program (GAFSP) Trust Fund, administered by the World Bank.  

    Responding to Urgent Needs

    The COVID-19 pandemic poses a unique risk to Yemen, a country where less than 50% of health facilities are fully functional and even those that are lack enough specialists, equipment, and medicine. There are no doctors in 18% of the country’s 333 districts, most health personnel have not received their salaries for at least two years, and immunization coverage has dropped by 30% since the conflict began. 

    IDA’s most recent US$26.9 million Emergency Response Project is designed to strengthen Yemen’s fragile systems for public health preparedness, including the detection, containment, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19. About $23.4 million will finance the procurement of medical supplies, equipment, training and implementation expenses, as well as the rehabilitation and upgrading of existing health facilities. Initially, the project will specifically target large communities with high risks of local transmission. The World Health Organization (WHO) is implementing the project through local health authorities.

    Last Updated: May 01, 2020

  • IDA grants have provided financing for critical service delivery, as well as for preserving human capital and the capacity of national institutions. IDA assistance has targeted the poorest and most vulnerable Yemeni households and communities nationwide, helping them cope with the impacts of the crisis through income support, cash transfers, health and nutrition interventions, cholera response, and restoring agricultural production. 

    Supporting livelihood opportunities in partnership with UNDP and local institutions, namely the Social Fund for Development and the Public Works Project, the World Bank’s US$400 million IDA grant under the Emergency Crisis Response Project supports a cash-for-work and community-based investment program. The project has reached over 380,000 direct beneficiaries of wage employment; 4.3 million people have received access to community services (such as water, irrigation, and better roads); and 9.5 million workdays have been created. Over 296,000 mothers and children have received nutrition services. Nine microfinance institutions were supported and over 3,000 micro enterprises revived. 

    Responding to the risk of famine, the US$448.58 million emergency cash transfer component of the ECRP, implemented by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has thus far completed seven rounds of emergency cash transfer payments to poor and vulnerable households across all of Yemen’s 333 districts. The last payment cycle, completed on April 9, 2020 amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, reached approximately 1.42 million households (nine million individuals). The Emergency Cash Transfer program is financed partially through the WB’s Crisis Response Window , with co-financing from the UK Department for International Development through the Yemen Emergency Multi Donor Trust Fund. Post-distribution monitoring found that 91% of beneficiaries used cash transfers to purchase food. Women comprise around 45% of the direct recipients. 

    To provide essential health and nutrition services, the Emergency Health and Nutrition Project (EHNP), in partnership with UNICEF and WHO, has assisted 17 million people in all governorates across the country. Over 2 million people have gained access to improved water sources and 1.97 million to improved sanitation, and over 4 million people in districts at high risk of cholera have received oral cholera vaccine. More than 4 million women and children have received nutrition services, and 7.3 million children have been immunized. As many as 27,000 health personnel have been trained and 3,610 health facilities supported with equipment and medical/non-medical supplies. About 230 health facilities that were not functioning before 2017 are now functional with EHNP support.

    Restoring services in urban areas, the World Bank has partnered with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and local institutions in conflict-affected cities, acting through the Integrated Urban Services Emergency Project to provide more than 1.6 million beneficiaries with access to critical services. Up to now, the project has provided 1.4 million Yemenis with restored access to critical urban services, including water and sanitation, transport, energy, and solid waste management. 

    And to increase people’s access to electricity, the Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project is partnering with local microfinance institutions to help them set up financing windows for high quality, small-scale, solar solutions for households, and providing partial grants to make the systems more affordable. The project is also contracting solar suppliers and installers to provide grant-financed solar systems to key facilities, including clinics, schools, and water wells in rural and peri-urban areas. As of February 2020, 49,000 people have gained access to electricity through the project, which has also brought electricity to over 60 rural clinics, schools, and drinking water wells, providing improved public services to an estimated 530,000 beneficiaries.

    Last Updated: May 01, 2020

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