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FEATURE STORY September 30, 2020

Supporting Local Organizations to Protect Human Capital in Yemen

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Story Highlights

  • Yemen has been embroiled in a protracted conflict that, since 2015, has turned the poorest country in the Middle East and North Africa region into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
  • To help respond to these crises, the International Development Association (IDA) is providing critical support to families and communities across the country.
  • Our partnerships have allowed the World Bank to support Yemen in addressing some of the most pressing needs in the country.

“In Sana’a, from morning to night, people worry about the petrol shortage, power outages, and simply getting the basics to live,” explains Faizah Al-Sulimani. Faizah works with the Small and Micro Enterprise Promotion Service, a local organization in Yemen supported by the World Bank. “As Yemenis, we need to find another solution so that we can have a good quality of life.”

Yemen has been embroiled in a protracted conflict that, since 2015, has turned the poorest country in the Middle East and North Africa region into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. By the end of 2019, its death toll had reached 233,000 people, with half of the deaths caused by a lack of food or access to health care, as well as the lack of basic infrastructure to provide these services.

Out of a total population of about 29 million, about 20 million Yemenis are food insecure and at risk of malnutrition, with two-thirds unable to afford enough food and water. Over 4 million people have fled their homes. Communicable diseases, including diphtheria and dengue fever, have spread throughout the country. And with the onset of COVID-19, Yemen faces yet another challenge.

“While the conflict has increased existing vulnerabilities in Yemen, other crises such as COVID-19 and floods have aggravated the situation,” says Abdulelah Taqi. Taqi is a donor reporting officer with the Social Development Fund (SFD), one of the remaining national institutions, which has been supported by the World Bank since its inception in 1997. “My family members and I lead a village life in our country’s capital city [of Sana’a]. We drive on broken roads, study in totally dark nights, and line up to get water from public distribution tanks.”

After one of the worst cholera outbreaks in modern history, in which millions of people were infected, the health system in Yemen is on the brink of collapse. Yemen’s health facilities are ill equipped to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Intermittent blackouts have stymied doctors’ abilities to treat patients. To make this harrowing situation even worse, Yemen is now also facing a locust outbreak, further threatening food security throughout the country.


"While the conflict has increased existing vulnerabilities in Yemen, other crises such as COVID-19 and floods have aggravated the situation."
Abdulelah Taqi
Social Development Fund

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Providing critical support in response to crises

To help respond to these crises, the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest nations, is providing critical support to families and communities across the country. Since 2016, we have committed $1.8 billion in IDA financing to Yemen. This includes income support, emergency cash assistance, health and nutrition interventions, cholera response, urban service delivery, and measures to help restore agricultural production. We also work closely with partners to strengthen local institutions and help them better manage funds to ensure that the benefits of our efforts reach those who need it most.

To address the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, IDA is providing $27 million through the COVID-19 Emergency Response Project to help establish 26 functional emergency operations centers and equip five central public health laboratories with diagnostic equipment, test kits, and reagents. Nearly 800 health care staff have been trained for infection prevention and control, and 84 rapid response teams (comprising 420 staff) have been deployed.

 

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WHO

Meanwhile, the Yemen Integrated Urban Services Emergency Project has helped restore access to critical urban services, such as water and sanitation, transport, energy, and solid waste management, improving health outcomes, basic living conditions, and economic activity. We are also supporting the Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project to help extend electricity lines to rural and peri-urban areas. Solar energy systems financed through this project have enabled hospitals to stay operational.

In June 2020, we provided $25 million from IDA to help address the desert locust crisis, which has caused major damage to the country’s agriculture. Through these efforts, we are helping Yemen improve surveillance and control of the locusts, mitigate the impacts on human health and the environment, and protect and restore the livelihoods of affected communities. The project will also help strengthen Yemen’s institutional capacity, regional coordination, and early warning and rapid response systems. 

Our other operations in Yemen include cash assistance in response to the food crisis; an emergency health, nutrition and cholera response; and support for agriculture, food production and income generation. These efforts are helping large segments of the population who have been pushed into poverty due to the fragile economy, ongoing conflict, and health crises. These efforts are strengthened through our collaboration with various UN agencies, donor governments, and local organizations like the SFD.

By drawing from the comparative advantages and strengths of each organization, these partnerships have allowed the World Bank to support Yemen in addressing some of the most pressing needs in the country, including health, nutrition, and sanitation. They enable us to continue our support for the people of Yemen, which becomes even more vital during complex and fragile times. As Taqi notes, community members feel that this “inclusive and sustainable response gives them a glimpse of hope amid the prevailing darkness in this country.”

 

Read more about how the World Bank works to support countries in the World Bank Annual Report 2020.


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