Over the last two years the situation in Yemen has deteriorated significantly. How has the World Bank responded?
Sandra Bloemenkamp: Allow me to go back a little further in history for background: The World Bank has been supporting development in Yemen for over 45 years, so we have a long history of a close working relationship with Yemen.
The institutions we have worked with and the partnerships we have built over the years are now central to our ongoing support for the millions of Yemeni across the entire country who are in need of income support and access to basic services. But Yemen is not the only country in the region in crisis.
There is conflict in Iraq, Libya and Syria, and their impacts are spilling across borders and causing instability across the region. Traditionally, development agencies like the World Bank waited for peace to be restored before moving in to support recovery and reconstruction. In response to the widespread instability, in October 2015 the Bank launched a new strategy for the Middle East and North Africa region.
Rather than waiting for the fighting to end, our aim is to complement the massive humanitarian effort by strengthening the resilience of people and local communities to cope with the shocks from conflict. An integral part of the new strategy is the building of strong partnerships both regionally and locally to address the scale of the challenge. Our current engagement in Yemen amid the ongoing conflict is guided by this regional strategy. We aim to support conflict-affected Yemeni families and communities to help them cope with the impact of the conflict.
As we leverage local partnerships to preserve the basic services that millions of Yemenis rely on, our goal is also to ensure the resilience of the institutions that deliver those services.
Of course, our strategy also includes our work with other partners on preparing for a future post-conflict recovery program, with due attention paid to state and institution building and laying the foundation for a more inclusive and resilient development framework for the future. .
How has the Bank managed to maintain its support to Yemen amid the conflict?
SB: In short, through our partnerships. In March 2015, the Bank had to suspend its operations for security reasons and evacuated most of its staff. But we never lost sight of the growing needs of the most vulnerable segment of the population as the situation deteriorated.
We found a way of maintaining vital programs and building on them to expand their size and reach. This has been possible through our long standing partnership with two local Yemeni institutions, the Social Fund for Development (SFD) and the Public Works Project (PWP).
They have strong local and community-based networks that provide basic services that millions of Yemenis rely on. We have also developed strong partnerships with UN agencies, relying on their extensive presence on the ground to manage our ongoing projects. These partnerships have produced results.
In July 2016, for example, an emergency IDA grant of $50 million was approved to help maintain urgent, basic services. For this, we worked in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to provide critical funding for the SFD and PWP to allow them to continue delivering the basic services and income opportunities that the most vulnerable rely on.
The Bank has also managed to continue funding two health projects managed by the UN’s Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization. National polio campaigns they helped fund have reached over 1.6 million Yemeni children under 5 years-old—about 30% of the target population nationwide. The projects have also supported the treatment of more than 1 million Yemeni for worm infections, malnutrition, and maternal and child illnesses.
With the new projects we launched today, we will be expanding our support to all of Yemen’s 22 governorates.