New UNDP-World Bank partnership makes a difference in war-torn Yemen
18 Jan 2017 by Auke Lootsma, Country Director, UNDP Yemen
Yemen is facing an unprecedented political, humanitarian, and development crisis. Long the poorest country in the Arab region, over half its population was living below the poverty line before the current conflict worsened. That number has risen steeply, with over 21.5 million people needing humanitarian assistance now—close to 80 percent of the country’s 28 million people.
Yemen’s political transition unravelled into full-blown war in March 2015. It has had a catastrophic impact: We in the United Nations estimate it’s already resulted in over 10,000 civilian injuries and deaths. Over 3 million people are displaced. About US$19 billion in damage to infrastructure and in other economic losses have been caused so far.
The conflict has further impoverished the Yemeni population and increased their vulnerability. At least 8 million people are severely food insecure, with over 460,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition. The remarkable resilience of the Yemeni population is being tested to its limits. The war has pushed vulnerable members of the Yemeni population to the brink of famine.
The increased lack of food, medicine, electricity, and jobs has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation. The high proportion of Yemenis in need of humanitarian assistance is putting a severe strain on under-funded humanitarian and development agencies. Less than 50 percent of the UN’s 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan is funded.
The 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, held in Istanbul, promised a new way of working to transcend the established division between humanitarian and development work. It is based on the premise of using resources and capabilities better, and galvanizing new partnerships to provide extra capabilities and resources to support collective, measurable outcomes for communities of people.
As one of the few development agencies on the ground in Yemen, UNDP plays its part in the WHS plan of action. Recently, it forged an innovative partnership with the World Bank Group to implement a US$300 million emergency project supporting 2 million Yemenis through cash-for-work programmes, as well as through improvements to public service delivery and the repairing of critical infrastructure across the country.
This new International Development Agency (IDA)-financed programme builds on two decades of the Bank’s development experience and its partnerships with institutions in Yemen. It is designed to continue to work despite the conflict. The aim is to build up the resilience of the most vulnerable Yemenis, and also to support the capacity of Yemen’s local institutions, such as the Social Fund for Development and Public Works Project, both of which continue to deliver critical services during this time of crisis.
This scaled-up support will help preserve the capacity of these institutions so that they remain capable of delivering critical services for recovery programmes once the fighting stops.
While our humanitarian partners work hard to save lives and ensure basic needs are met in Yemen, joint programmes like this partnership between UNDP and the World Bank are an innovative solution to ensure that communities not only recover from the crisis but also improve the longer-term development prospects needed to move toward a lasting peace.