“My children and I went to bed hungry many nights. We didn’t find enough food to eat. There were times I told them I wasn’t hungry so that whatever food I put on the table would be enough for them,” said Samiah, a mother of three now living in Hodeidah.
This heartbreaking story is no different than the stories of nearly 18 million mothers, fathers and children in Yemen who constantly struggle with not having enough food.
Food insecurity. Famine. Starvation. The dire reality facing the Yemeni people has been caused by nearly a four-year devastating war. The war has crippled an already-ailing economy, caused mass displacement, disrupted salary payments, hiked food and fuel prices, paralyzed delivery of key services, and led to a deadly cholera epidemic.
Basheer Al-Nahari, a construction worker and father of six, has faced the harsh reality of life in a conflict state first hand. “When the conflict broke out, I lost my job. I was no longer able to buy food for my family or pay the rent. I didn’t know what to do or where to turn; there was no one to help.”
Al-Nahari is also not alone. The loss of income for 8 million Yemenis, coupled with the disruption of salary payments for 1.25 million civil servants, have further exacerbated the humanitarian situation and set the country back by decades. There is immense pressure to provide relief.
The limited access to key goods, coupled with the decreasing and fluctuating national currency, has led to skyrocketing food prices, making food inaccessible to even Yemenis with steady income.
In 2016, amid this worsening crisis, the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) partnered to prevent a full-blown famine in Yemen. This partnership was designed to respond to the food shortages plaguing Yemen.
Through the Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project (YECRP), a USD $300 million project, the World Bank and UNDP work together to shore-up two key national institutions. Despite the conflict, the Social Fund for Development (SFD) and the Public Works Project (PWP) have been able to continue their community-based services while working in harmony with humanitarian partners to help Yemenis.
With YECRP and the International Development Association’s (IDA) support, the World Bank and UNDP have brought a ‘New Way of Working’ into reality in Yemen bringing together humanitarian and development efforts to prevent local communities from falling into further fragility.
The degree of deterioration of basic services such as water, sanitation, agriculture and education has exhausted the available international humanitarian resources. The conflict has also exacerbated chronic poverty, resulting in a drastic increase in severe hunger and acute malnutrition among 1.1 million mothers and 1.8 million children. Such high rates of malnutrition has been aggravated by crumbling healthcare services, with only 50 percent of the country’s health facilities fully functional. Furthermore, the serious damage caused to the country’s water and sanitation infrastructure has exposed the people to water-borne diseases and other health risks.
To help Yemenis cope, YECRP has successfully created jobs by utilizing SFD’s and PWP’s existing capacities. In 2018 alone, more than 2,017 large-scale cash-for-work sub-projects were implemented, benefiting over 3 million Yemenis.
The sub-projects created jobs for over 328,000 people, 18 percent of whom are internally displaced and/or returnees. The jobs are generally associated with the repair of key basic services for vulnerable people and communities. This includes building domestic water supply systems, protecting farmland to maintain optimal production, paving roads to provide safe access to health care and food, and rebuilding damaged schools for students to continue their education.
Empowering Yemenis by providing crisis-affected families with basic needs builds resilience across the country.
The project also works to ensure small businesses have an opportunity to stay afloat during the crisis, helping communities keep citizens employed and families fed. YECRP supported nine major national microfinance institutions so that nearly 84,000 small business clients across Yemen – e.g. farmers, fishermen, midwives, grocery stores and pharmacies – can maintain access to financing and continue operating. Over 8,600 of these businesses were on the verge of collapsing after the conflict, but because of YECRP’s assistance to the microfinance institutions, they have been able to stay open and grow.
Asma’a Al-Ghasham was forced to close her small tailoring business due to the war. But this year, with the grants she received from the National Microfinance Foundation and the Yemen Microfinance Network, she was not only able to get back on her feet, she now has 17 employees who can as well. “I’m very happy with the success of my business and I dream of exporting some of our traditional clothes and trends abroad one day,” she says with a smile.
Both Al-Nahari and Samiah have benefitted from YECRP wage employment. Regarding her experience, Samiah says, “I’ve worked for four months now and many things have improved in our lives, thanks to this project. [It] makes me hopeful for the future. I can pay the rent and buy food for my children; everyone is happy and healthy.”
The project has also approached the food crisis from other angles. Through joint interventions, nearly 3,500 women community health promoters have been trained and contracted to work in health facilities. In 2018, they treated and educated over 220,000 mothers and children suffering from malnutrition.
The impact of YECRP across Yemen has been tremendous, helping the Yemeni people regain access to key services, earning wages to allow them to purchase basic needs for themselves and their families, and – most importantly – restoring their dignity.
Funded and supported by the World Bank, the Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project (YECRP) is implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Social Fund for Development (SFD) and the Public Works Project (PWP). The US$300 million project provides economic stimuli in the form of large cash-for-work projects, support to small businesses, and labor-intensive repairs of socio-economic assets, benefiting vulnerable local households and communities across Yemen.