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FEATURE STORY June 3, 2020

Race Against Time to Deliver Services and Support to Yemenis



Bracing for a response, albeit with extremely limited resources, Director of Al Jamhouri public hospital in Sana’a is assured on one front: the provision of solar power through the YIUSEP now ensures that the hospital has a supply of electricity around the clock.

Yemen’s six-year-long war has taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure. One third of the facilities for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and for transport has been damaged due to the conflict. Urban services, such as street cleaning and trash collection, have also suffered badly because municipal authorities lack funds. Half of the country’s hospitals and clinics have been damaged or destroyed, with those remaining operational facing shortages of electrical power as well as of medicines and other essential supplies.  

At the same time, Yemen is fighting a devastating outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and other major  diseases such as cholera, dengue fever, and malaria. Last year’s cholera outbreak was one of its worst. These diseases are made deadlier by weak coping capacity in the country’s cities. The International Rescue Committee, a U.S.-based NGO, calls the potential for outbreaks of the coronavirus in countries like Yemen “a nightmare scenario.”

The World Bank’s Yemen Integrated Urban Services Emergency Project (YIUSEP) has been providing support to the health sector through integrated services, which are critical in the fight against COVID-19 and other diseases.

More electricity for hospitals is essential

Dr. Mutahar Mohammed Murshid, Director of Al Jamhouri public hospital in Sana’a, had feared the news of COVID-19’s arrival in Yemen for weeks before the first confirmed cases last month. Bracing for a response, albeit with extremely limited resources, he is assured on one front: the provision of solar power through the YIUSEP now ensures that the hospital has a supply of electricity around the clock. 

Before the solar installation, which took place in October 2018, the hospital had to manage with only half of the power it required to run critical services for an average of 16 hours a day. A generator previously used to supplement the power supply from the grid, but it was expensive, as well as unreliable because of frequent disruptions to supplies of diesel fuel as well.

COVID-19 health worker in Yemen


YIUSEP is in the process of providing 76 health facilities with electricity. Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems have already been installed and are operational at 44 of them in the cities of Aden, Sana’a, and Hodeida. The remaining 32 health facilities should start to receive electricity through the project’s interventions by the end of September 2020. 

With this more reliable supply of energy, these hospitals will be the government’s preferred locations for isolating COVID-19 patients in the event of a serious outbreak. Yemen has identified 38 facilities to be used as isolation centers—30 of which have directly benefited from the YIUSEP.

Al Jamhouri public hospital is one of these facilities. It receives approximately 500 patients a day and was one of the first hospitals to receive a 137-kilowatt off-grid solar PV system, introduced under the YIUSEP. 

Patients in the intensive and critical care units benefit most from the uninterrupted electricity supply it supports. The reliable supply of power enables the hospital to maintain a night shift, something that was extremely difficult before. It also ensures temperature-controlled storage of medicines and vaccines, which used to be a challenge.

Integrating urban services is helping too

In addition to providing solar energy to hospitals, in 10 cities across Yemen the YIUSEP is supporting sectors like water, sanitation, hygiene, and solid waste management. These sectors also affect health outcomes and can be essential to responding to the outbreak of disease. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the project team reprogrammed its activities to allocate more resources to waste management and WASH to strengthen the response in cities. 

The integrated, area-based approach that the project has adopted recognizes that needs are complex, interrelated, and multi-sectoral. Interventions were selected to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. For example, roads leading to hospitals that the project is assisting were prioritized for rehabilitation, accumulated waste was removed, and water and sanitation facilities were improved in the surrounding areas. 

This integrated approach has achieved results: more than 33,000 megawatt hours of clean solar energy has been provided to 62 hospitals and schools; over a million tons of accumulated trash has been safely disposed of; and approximately 250 km roads and streets have been rehabilitated to improve citizens’ mobility. It’s estimated that more than 700,000 people across Yemen are now receiving clean water and sanitation.