Yemen | Through KSA and UAE Funding, UNDP Provides Life-Changing Programming

Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war for the past four years with devastating effects on its population. Even before the conflict, Yemen was one of the poorest countries in the region; however, the protracted crisis has propelled the war-torn country into the worst humanitarian crisis in the world — and could become the worst the world has seen in the last 100 years.

As of today — out of 28 million Yemenis — approximately 21 million (75 per cent) are in desperate need of humanitarian or protection assistance. As many as half the population — 14 million people — could soon be entirely dependent upon aid for survival.

To help combat this, in March 2018, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) provided USD $930 million in support of the 2018 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (YHRP). The funds represent nearly one-third of the USD $2.96 billion required under the YHRP and are to be used only for humanitarian needs.

The KSA and UAE funding to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has helped contribute to the YHRP throughout Yemen in the areas of:

a. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH);
b. Emergency employment through cash-for-work programming; and,
c. Demining activities.

This, in addition to other funding, has enabled UNDP to successfully contribute to the ongoing humanitarian and development work in Yemen. Below are some of the impacts and highlights resulting from the funding.

In rural war-affected communities, access to water offers freedom

With the new water cisterns, Asya and her children have been relieved of the burden of walking kilometers to fetch water on daily basis. The children can return to school an Asya can pursue other important activities. | Photo Credit: UNDP Yemen

As of November 2018, UNDP and our local implementing partners have built 743 water cisterns for war-affected households. These individual cisterns have provided clean water access to 1,625 people — giving children the opportunity to return to school, and women an opportunity to pursue economic activities, instead of spending hours bringing the daily water needs home.

One of those benefiting from this type of project is Asya Ali Aboos. A 24-year old widow, Asya has four children to care for herself. She and her family live in the village of Al-Raqqa, in Hajjah Governorate.

“The lack of water in my village caused my family to suffer from severe dehydration and other issues. Our nearest water source is about 3 kilometers away from our house and it would take me about four hours to walk across very rugged roads, and return with whatever I could carry,” said Asya.
Asya’s family, before having their own cistern, had to bring the water from 3 kilometers away source on daily basis. | Photo Credit: UNDP Yemen

The project aims to provide cash for vulnerable households in rural areas in return for the construction of water reservoirs. But because traditionally in Yemen manual labour such as construction is done by the men in the household, widows often face uncertainty in this and other areas of daily life.

Asya was uncertain as to whether she would even be able to apply to participate in the project. “I felt helpless and sad. I thought that I wouldn’t be able to build the reservoir alone. But I understood the benefit of having water closer to home for both me and my children. And I understood the difference it would make in our lives. So I found the courage to be brave and I decided that I would be able to build the reservoir by being creative. I brought workers from my village and paid them to carry the rocks and to build the reservoir while I helped and supervised them.”

Asya has indicated that the project has changed her life. It has enabled her to have quick access to water for cooking, washing and drinking without the distance or time spent it took to gather the water. Additionally, the money she earned from building the reservoir not only allowed her to pay the workers from the village, but it has also helped provide basic needs for her family.

In times of war, women often take over head-of-household responsibilities

Samia practicing with her classmates in the sewing learning center. | Photo Credit: UNDP Yemen

32-year old Samia’s family has been severely affected due to the ongoing conflicts and war in Yemen. Until her father died from stepping on a landmine in Abyan, her family was entirely dependent on his salary. After his death, without his income, Samia’s family could no longer manage to support their day-to-day needs — including the school fees for her younger brother. The family was struggling.

However, UNDP’s emergency employment project in Abyan targeted women like Samia, working to help provide her with skills to support her vulnerable family. Since joining the project, she and others have been trained in handicraft skills and taught how to sell her goods at the market. For Samia, the savings from the cash-for-work activities, will help to grow her own business sewing clothes for her neighborhood. She feels confident and savvy enough now to grow her small business, and feels safe knowing that she can take care of her family — including sending her brother back to school.

The project was implemented locally by the For All Foundation.

UNDP’s life-saving training and procurement of uniforms raises deminers morale and respect in community

Deminer’s new uniforms. | Photo Credit: UNDP Yemen

To date, UNDP and local partners have cleared approximately 6.2 million square meters of land and 117,000 explosive remnants of war (ERWs) and unexploded ordnance. However, despite this progress, challenges remain.

In Yemen, the devastating impact of landmines and ERWs is acute and — by comparison to the size and population density — the level of contamination is high. Recognizing the serious humanitarian nature of ERWs, UNDP is helping to protect local deminers while building their capacity through land survey and highly specialized explosive ordinance disposal technique trainings.

As part of this process — in addition to the procurement of equipment and other demining items — UNDP recently purchased 900 new demining uniforms. These uniforms not only help protect the deminers from harm in their daily work, but also help bring them respect within the communities they serve.

“The uniform helps bring professionalism to our demining work. It promotes a good image and builds confidence within the communities,” said Ibrahim, a deminer who has benefited from UNDP’s assistance.

In addition to the provision of the life-saving training that UNDP provides — to ensure the deminers can participate unobstructed in their specialized courses — UNDP has also provided solar panels for the demining training centres. The centers are vital in equipping and training the deminers and civilians to the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS).

Bathrooms bring dignity and income opportunity to vulnerable communities in Yemen

Installing exterior sanitation pipes for a household latrine in the village of Haithah, Amran governorate. | Photo Credit: UNDP Yemen

To help protect rural communities from epidemic diseases like cholera, UNDP — through local partners — supported 1,149 villagers to help build their own bathrooms with a proper sanitation system. Over 8,300 people have been provided with access to improved sanitation and hygiene facilities, as well as income opportunities giving them the sense of dignity during times of unemployment. Zaid Muhsen Salbah, 70 years old, from the village of Dhalima Habour in Amran District, is one of those who were part of the initiative.

Zaid’s life has not always been easy. He recently lost a son to the cholera epidemic sweeping through Yemen, and suffered a stroke that left him bedridden and unable to move on his own. Because their house had no bathroom, his two sons — Zaid and Ali — have been assisting him day and night to walk to a distant location to relieve himself.

Despite his desire to work outside the home to help bring money home for the family, Ali — Zaid’s younger son — was often the one to stay home to help his dad get through the day. So the family stretched their means to survive on the little money that Zaid, the son, earned to purchase food and necessities.

Recently, however, through UNDP and partners, the sons received a cash-for-work grant that allowed them to break through one of the external walls of the home to build an bathroom. The new interior bathroom allows Zaid, the father, the ability to access the toilet on his own as it is now located steps from his bed. Because of his father’s newfound independence, Ali is now also able to return to work outside the home.

“Having a bathroom in our house has been a turning point in our lives. I can now work and earn money without worrying how my father will fare,” Ali said.

He also noted that the family benefited from the money earned from working on the bathroom construction as it has helped them buy much needed food.

As for the father, Zaid, he is happy he is able to live a more independent life and is proud that his son, Ali, is able to return to work.