Women and Children in YemenThe impacts of the war in Yemen continue to cause tremendous humanitarian suffering, with more than 24 million people in need of assistance. The persisting armed and political conflicts in Yemen have already reversed human development by 21 years, leaving around 19.9 million lacking sufficient healthcare and 16.2 million experiencing food insecurity. The humanitarian crisis disproportionately impacts women and children in Yemen as they are more vulnerable to mortality, malnutrition, violence and health issues.

Women and Children in Yemen

In 2019, more than 12 million children in Yemen needed humanitarian assistance and 2 million children were not attending school before COVID-19 even set in. In 2020, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Acute Malnutrition analysis analyzed 133 districts in southern Yemen. The analysis reveals a 15.5% increase in young children experiencing severe acute malnutrition. This fact puts 98,000 children at risk of death unless an urgent intervention exists.

In 2018, Yemen’s Gender Inequality Index (GII) value was 0.834 compared to the world average of 0.439. This reflects the female struggle to improve well-being due to gender disparities that affect reproductive health, education, employment and more. The conflict and impact of COVID-19 in Yemen have increased food insecurity and affected nutrition and access to health services, leaving at least 250,000 pregnant or breastfeeding women requiring malnutrition care in 2020.

The crisis in Yemen has disproportionately affected women and increased their rates of poverty, hunger and displacement.

The Effects of the Crisis in Yemen on Women and Children

  • Increased gender-based violence and sexual violence.
  • Roughly 75% of the displaced population consists of women and children.
  • Increased widowhood leaving women susceptible to poverty.
  • Lack of adequate healthcare access can severely damage women’s reproductive health.
  • Increased incidents of child marriage.
  • Lack of educational access due to destroyed infrastructure and school closures.

Save the Children

Save the Children is the largest aid organization in Yemen. Its teams are assisting children in receiving essential care. The organization, which began responding to the crisis in Yemen in 2015, has provided more than 3 million children with life-saving care. The teams attend to children younger than 5 years old who are experiencing malnutrition. Save the Children also has temporary learning programs in place to address the lack of education during the conflict. The organization has also supported nearly 100,000 parents to secure the basic needs of their children.

UNICEF

UNICEF responded to the crisis in Yemen by providing physical, mental and medical health care services to children and families. In 2019, UNICEF reached more than 390,000 children and parents/guardians with psychosocial support. UNICEF also gave measles inoculations to more than 556,000 children and reached 2.3 million children under 5 with primary healthcare services.

Women, Peace and Security (WPS)

The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda aims to strengthen women’s participation, reallocate power and protect women’s rights in various countries. Women’s organizations, civil society, government agencies and U.N. entities collaborated to develop a National Action Plan (NAP) for Yemen in 2019 that aligns with the WPS Agenda to protect women and increase women’s involvement in political, economic and social expansion. The NAP should meet its goals between 2020-2022. The main objectives are:

  • Increase women’s engagement in decision-making roles.
  • Prevent violence against women and increase women’s protection from violence.
  • Provide support to girls and women affected by violations and abuse.
  • Make efforts for women’s empowerment and education.
  • Include women in humanitarian aid and relief programs.

The above organizations and strategies work to ensure the health, protection and well-being of millions of women and children in Yemen. This support can safeguard the world’s most vulnerable groups during times of crisis and conflict.

Violet Chazkel
Photo: Flickr

Yemen's humanitarian crisisCaught in a civil war rife with ongoing violence costing thousands of lives, Yemen is currently the most impoverished country in the Middle East and is experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis. Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is a matter of urgency as roughly 24 million Yemenis depend on foreign aid for survival.

Houthis Terrorist Designation

On January 10, 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Yemen’s Houthis group would be designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. The designation went into effect on January 19, 2021, only a day before the new presidential administration would see Pompeo exit his position. This decision has drawn international concerns and criticisms as it is feared that the label would pose major challenges to U.S.-Yemen relations.

As foreign aid must go through the Houthis in order to be allocated to the people of Yemen, this act would further complicate the distribution of essential aid from the U.S. and exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Meanwhile, it has equally evoked a necessity to put the spotlight back on Yemen’s dire state of relentless and unforgiving civil war.

Conflict and Corruption in Yemen

Since North and South Yemen unified in 1990 to form the present state of Yemen, the country has struggled with internal unity due to the inherent religious and cultural divide among citizens. However, these differences became increasingly visible in 2014, when Yemen experienced a period of unrest throughout its population after Yemen’s president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, lifted fuel subsidies, threatening an aggravated state of poverty and food insecurity throughout the nation.

Frustrated with the pervasive corruption within the administration, widespread protests would encourage the Houthi rebels to consolidate power and take over Yemen’s Government the same year. In an effort to regain control over the region, Saudi Arabia utilized military intervention to overthrow the Houthis with the aid of foreign powers such as France, the United States and the United Kingdom. However, this conflict only set the stage for the calamity to come.

Since the Houthi takeover and the Saudi-led intervention, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has seen more than 200,000 fatalities recorded as a result of direct and indirect effects of the country’s civil war.

Signs of Promise

While the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization throws a wrench into the already complex relationship dynamic between the United States and Yemen, there are three signs of promise:

  • Following Pompeo’s announcement, the United States exempted organizations such as the Red Cross and the United Nations to continue essential aid to Yemen and allowed for exports of agricultural commodities and medicine.
  • On January 25, 2021, the United States approved a month-long exemption that would allow transactions to take place between the U.S and the Houthis.
  • The new secretary of state, under the Biden Administration, Antony Blinken, has pledged to review the terrorist designation of the Houthis — a reassuring statement for the stability of aid to Yemen’s people.

Despite this setback, the designation has nevertheless raised an opportunity to bring our attention back to Yemen’s tumultuous state. Revitalized efforts of diplomacy may inspire more substantial action in order to address Yemen’s growing humanitarian crisis.

Alessandra Parker
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Yemen
Mental health in Yemen requires attention due to the country’s ongoing troubles. For six years now, Yemen has been facing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world—more than 80% of the population are in need of humanitarian assistance, including more than 12 million children who have no hand in the fight for power and status. To make the matter worse, the outburst of COVID-19 drove the country into “an emergency within an emergency.”

Only half of Yemen’s health facilities are capable of functioning in the worst of circumstances, and amidst the shortage of masks, gloves, clean water and sanitation, the number of cases rose up to 2,221 as of February 25, 2021, with 624 losing their lives due to the lack of supplies to treat the virus. The country is facing a huge crisis, and the crisis is affecting the mental health of its citizens as much as their physical bodies. Amidst the lack of functioning facilities and death surrounding them from every direction, the increased pressure on the Yemenis worsened their mental health further. Here is some information about mental health in Yemen.

Mental Health in Yemen

Due to the crippling stress on the backs of the Yemeni people, an estimate of one in five people in Yemen suffer from a mental health disorder, according to a study that the Family Counselling and Development Foundation conducted in 2017; this includes depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Moreover, due to the lack of education and facilities, the number of psychiatrists is small with almost 0.2 psychiatrists per 100,000 people as of 2016. This amounts to 40 psychiatrists for the entire population. Additionally, to add to the misery and the deteriorating mental health in Yemen, some of the few existing mental health services closed due to the pandemic.

UNFPA and Psychological Support Centers

However, amidst all the odds, and all the difficulties that Yemen is facing in trying to stay afloat, UNFPA has not ceased to offer its mental health services to the survivors of gender-based violence and improve the mental health in Yemen. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is the United Nations sector that works
to protect youth’s potential and ensures that every childbirth is safe.

In the beginning, social workers carried out the work, however, in 2018, the UNFPA offered its help and assistance through psychological support centers as well. These centers were capable of providing “specialized and clinical mental health care, including through telephone assistance.” Currently, even during the coronavirus outbreak, six UNFPA- supported psychological centers are operating and helping those in need—the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid provides support to two of these centers that provide crucial assistance to the Yemenis when they need it most.

Due to the increased demands for mental support, UNFPA increased the number of counselors available for people’s convenience. The counselors became available to deliver telecounseling services via 18 toll-free telecounseling hotlines in order to assist survivors of gender-based violence and educate the population on COVID-19 prevention. The results were so impressive: nearly 18,000 people received specialized psychological support through the toll-free hotline from 2018. Moreover, more than 25,000 survivors of violence received psychological support in the form of in-person counseling. UNFPA aims to help assist 5.5 million people via essential and life-saving services by 2019.

The Internationational Organization of Migration (IOM)

Moreover, the International Organization of Migration (IOM) provides a safe place for children to escape from the blood and hunger in the country they must reside in—a place to feel a sense of normalcy and to live in the beauty of their childhood, even for a few hours. The children participate in a variety of activities to help them learn and play, such as storytelling, artwork and more.

Beginning in March 2016, IOM offered community-based psychosocial support to nearly 400,000 children. More than half of these children watched their homes getting destroyed and had to live in informal sites.

Yemen has been facing a depilating economic and social crisis until now, and this has been affecting mental health in Yemen every day. However, with the help of various organizations, the citizens of Yemen will receive sufficient treatment and care to help rebuild their country gradually.

– Reem Agha
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Yemen
The story of Yemen has been more bitter than sweet in recent years. A multinational proxy war that has become disguised as a civil war has landed the country into the illustrious label of “worst humanitarian crisis.” While many experts understand the deep-rooted complexity of the Yemeni disaster, few acknowledge the many equitable woes, such as human trafficking, that have emerged from the other larger issues. The numbers on human trafficking in Yemen are very unclear due to the lawlessness throughout the country but NGOs reported many Yemeni populations being at risk because of the armed conflict and economic conditions. Whether it be a migrant in search of work or a soldier fighting in the conflict, the voyage is dangerous and the process is unfair.

Human Trafficking and African Migrants

Saudi Arabia has the largest economy out of all the Arab states due to its large petroleum reserves. This attracts many migrants from east Africa, specifically Somalia and Ethiopia, who are searching for opportunities that are harder to come by in their own countries. In order to reach Saudi Arabia, they have to cross the Red Sea into Yemen and travel north to the border which requires a complex network of smugglers to organize travel and get them entry into the Saudi Arabian border. Approximately 138,000 people, mostly Ethiopians, crossed the Red Sea in 2019. However, those numbers reduced in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conflict in Yemen has allowed these smugglers to thrive from the lawlessness. But the conflict adds an increased level of danger and those individuals who decide to make the trek across the Red Sea and through Yemen must put themselves at the mercy of a smuggler. Additionally, the fighting along the border, as well as road closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have made it difficult to get into Saudi Arabia. As a result, many end up having to stay in Yemen with no money or communication with family back home.

Houthi Control

Some migrants get close to reaching the Saudi Arabian border in Houthi-controlled northern Yemen but if Houthis catch them, they frequently have to remain in Yemen with very few ways of leaving. Migrants that Houthis catch experience arrest and must pay an “exit fee” for which they can then go back down south to the edge of Houthi control. At this point, they do not have money or work and thus become stuck in Yemen.

Some migrants face even worse fates if Houthis catch them. Upon arrival, many go to Yemeni detention centers where they wait for their family back home to send a ransom while they experience torture and abuse.

Human Trafficking and Soldier Recruitment

Internationally denounced, many Yemeni end up fighting in the ongoing conflict, with Saudi Arabia having a large role in the recruiting. Recruiters receive pay for each person they send to the Saudi Arabian border, but oftentimes those who undergo recruitment are young soldiers who live in tough circumstances making it easy for others to exploit them. The situation has received the description of “a trafficking of youth souls at the port, just like livestock.”

Recruits end up in terrible conditions and they have to fight to survive. Once they arrive at the recruitment camp, they can only leave if they obtain an injury or participate in a collective protest. Additionally, they can experience detention in prisons if they try to escape. At one point, Houthi forces bombed a prison with detainees that attempted to escape the fighting, resulting in the detainees’ deaths. For many, the only option for escape is to pay a smuggler. This dangerous cycle for a recruited soldier makes human trafficking in Yemen a lucrative business.

Actions to Stop Human Trafficking in Yemen

Because of the lack of control Yemen has over its own country due to the conflict, poor economy, lack of basic institutions and many other problems, it is not taking enough tangible steps to help curb the business of human trafficking. However, one small group battling the problem is the Yemen Organization for Combating Human Trafficking, which emerged in 2009.

Responses from the international community and the U.S. government are the most crucial in helping stop the problem. UNICEF published a paper focused on the issue and the policy proposals that it has determined would be the most effective. Those proposals focused on eliminating the supply and demand of the trafficking business as well as recommending governmental responses both regionally and around the world that would target families vulnerable to trafficking.

The Yemeni government repeatedly recognizes this as a problem and has made anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts but it is clear that it requires more attention. Until more international involvement with a focus on diplomatic steps to bring peace to Yemen emerges, human trafficking will thrive under the chaos. President Biden recently announced the U.S. would be ending support to Saudi Arabia for its offensive efforts in Yemen. One will have to wait and see whether that will have any significant impact on bringing peace to the country and curbing the demand for human trafficking. However, at least it is one positive stride in comparison to other approaches thus far.

– Stephen Blake Illes
Photo: Flickr

United States-Based Nonprofits Labeled by the United Nations as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, more than 80% of Yemen’s population is experiencing starvation, displacement and disease while the country is on an economic decline. The crisis began in 2015 due to a civil war, and since then, many organizations have stepped up to support the people of Yemen. A few of these organizations are United States-based nonprofits that are assisting those suffering. in Yemen.

CARE

During the aftermath of World War II, Arthur Ringland, Lincoln Clark and Wallace Campbell founded this organization. Today, it has worked in more than 100 countries and has assisted around 90 million people. Each year, CARE assists 3.4 million people in Yemen, specifically those who are experiencing the worst of the crisis. The assistance includes water, food and sanitation services. CARE also puts a lot of energy into reproductive healthcare by training healthcare workers to deliver babies safely and provide proper care. It is also working to rehabilitate maternity wards. Other long-term stability programs that CARE is working on in Yemen include food security, water sanitation, hygiene, economic empowerment for women and education. Even though the Yemen crisis started in 2015, CARE has been working in Yemen since 1992, working against poverty and for social justice.

Humanitarian Alliance for Yemen

In August of 2019, four United States-based nonprofits announced they would be creating an alliance, dedicated to battling the crisis in Yemen, called the Humanitarian Alliance for Yemen. The four nonprofit organizations part of this project are Project HOPE, MedGlobal, Pure Hands and United Mission for Relief and Development (UMR). Both Project HOPE and MedGlobal are organizations that focus on providing different forms of medical and healthcare to those in need, while Pure Hands’ focus is more on alleviating poverty and providing economic and disaster relief. Lastly, UMR is an organization that provides relief through food, education and economic security programs.

Led by MedGlobal, the team launched a medical mission in November of 2019. The people of Yemen have been suffering from many diseases and the purpose of this mission was to treat the diseases and other medical issues civilians are affected with. The alliance sent a team of 23 members who traveled to different parts of Yemen providing relief services including surgeries and medical training. It also sent supplies of medication and surgery and medical equipment to different healthcare facilities within Yemen.

The alliance continues to work in Yemen, most recently working against COVID-19 and the consequences it has brought.

International Rescue Committee

Founded by the suggestion of Albert Einstein, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has been helping people since 1933. Throughout the years it has assisted refugees and others experiencing disaster and conflict, in places all over the world. The IRC has been working in Yemen since 2012, providing clean water and other aid. The IRC is still assisting Yemen to this day. Its work includes providing different kinds of healthcare through medications and disease treatment as well as sanitation, water and nutrition, to almost a quarter of a million people. It also focuses on women’s reproductive health care and protection from gender-based violence. The IRC has also been working to improve education access to millions of children.

A unique aspect of the IRC’s efforts in Yemen includes advocacy. It has called for a cease-fire, improved humanitarian access and brought the issue to the attention of the international community in an attempt to encourage peace.

Helping Hand for Relief and Development

Though it has only existed since 2005, Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) has provided many kinds of relief to millions of people all over the world. HHRD is not working directly with Yemen, but it has taken
part in assisting the refugees from Yemen. In 2017, thousands of Yemeni citizens fled their hometown to Djibouti, a country located near Yemen, in northeast Africa. HHRD created the Yemeni Refugee Relief Fund to assess the needs of the Yemeni refugees and gather more information on their situation.

HHRD also sent emergency relief items and began to implement long-term sanitation, water, healthcare and hygiene programs. The team also met with the Department of Refugees Affairs Director to discuss plans for refugee relief.

Foreign Aid to Yemen

While some of these United States-based nonprofits were founded due recent to global issues, others came into existence due to global issues from many decades ago. These combined humanitarian efforts provide significant hope for the people of Yemen by providing foreign aid to the most vulnerable.

– Maryam Tori
Photo: Flickr

Help Yemeni WomenOn top of the constant violence occurring in Yemen, almost 13% of the population face unemployment. Most women in Yemen work as homemakers, but a 2012 study, Measuring Women’s Status in Yemen, shows that almost one in two women (47%) would like to start their own business. Initiatives in Yemen offer women free business training, skills training and loans to help Yemeni women generate an income.

The Small and Micro Enterprises Promotion Service Agency (SMEPS)

SMEPS came to Yemen in 2005 and works to enhance the lives of Yemeni citizens through the creation of jobs and skills training. SMEPS has taught Yemeni women the best growing, harvesting and post-harvesting techniques for coffee beans. Yemeni women helped create a coffee that entered the gourmet market at a premium price. SMEPS also helped coffee farmers in Yemen. The aim was to create business resilience by expanding the production of farmers through improving the value chain by using modern technologies and better farming methods.

In 2010, SMEPS partnered with The International Labour Organization (ILO) to provide business training for women entrepreneurs. ILO came to Yemen in 1965 and has created opportunities for citizens to rise out of poverty. In one year, the workshops targeted around 500 Yemeni women who had taken out a loan to either start a small business or expand their existing businesses. The second phase of the program aims to reach 2,000 more women. Results indicate that after the training courses, the women had a higher level of business knowledge and competence to start or improve their own businesses. Overall, the women improved their quality of life with the income they earned.

SPARK’s Agri-Business Creation Programme (ABC)

SPARK came to Yemen around 2012 to assist citizens in agriculture, helping them earn an income from their crops. SPARK created a program called Agri-Business Creation (ABC) to help agri-entrepreneurs through training, mentoring and business plans. The program has notably assisted Yemeni women in developing agricultural businesses. Four female-run businesses were awarded microloans to expand their business after the training they received in business skills from SPARK’s ABC program. The loans help Yemeni women to generate more products and expand their businesses. Besides seeing an increase in income, the success of their work contributed to a boost in confidence and a sense of independence in the women.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

GIZ came to Yemen in 1965 and assisted citizens with basic necessities and the provision of educational opportunities. First, GIZ helped Yemeni women develop businesses. Nearly 200 women attended training on how to develop a successful business idea and how to establish a business. Many women found prosperity in their new businesses and employed other women to assist them in their work. Secondly, around 300 women with existing businesses received additional business training via coaching. After the training, many women tripled their income and hired more women to work for them. Lastly, GIZ created opportunities for homemakers to sell handmade goods overseas. GIZ took handmade baskets made by Yemeni women to Germany and showed off their goods in exhibitions. This strategy helped 300 women in rural areas earn a steady income.

Although the raging war in Yemen has resulted in high unemployment, organizations like SMEPS, SPARK and GIZ offer programs and strategies to help  Yemeni women earn an income by developing entrepreneurial businesses.

– Samantha Rodriguez-Silva
Photo: Flickr

“Every Last Child” Save the Children believes that children have the right to grow up healthy, educated and safe. Since its beginning in 1919, they have worked in over 100 countries. In 2019 alone, the organization reached over 144 million children globally. One of their newest campaigns, “Every Last Child,” has allowed them to increase their reach to especially vulnerable populations of children around the world. Below are four facts about the campaign and its efforts.

The Start

The world was introduced to the global campaign on April 26, 2016. The campaign strives to reach children who do not have adequate access to health care, education and protection. It works to end deaths among children from preventable causes. The specific goal is to prevent at least 600,000 preventable child deaths. Another facet of the campaign is aiding children in receiving a basic quality education. The quantified objective for this goal is helping 50 million more children gain access to education. A 15-year time frame, 2030, was the basic idea for these missions. So far, the campaign has helped 15 million of the world’s “excluded children” have access to life-saving health care and quality education.

“Excluded Children”

“Every Last Child” focuses on “excluded children“, defined as those “not benefiting from recent global progress in social well-being, particularly in health and learning, because of a toxic mix of poverty and discrimination.” The campaign did research to establish the extent of exclusion associated with certain groups of children. It found that persecution and discrimination for beliefs occurred to 400 million children with ethnic and religious backgrounds. Further, children with disabilities are four times more likely to experience physical and sexual violence and neglect when compared to their peers.

Three Guarantees

The campaign calls on leaders across the world to make three guarantees for all children. The first guarantee is the establishment of fair finance. The “Every Last Child” campaign describes this as, “sustainable financing of and free access to essential services.” This includes escalating public investment in high-quality health and educational services to increase access for all children.

The second guarantee is to establish equal treatment by putting an end to discriminatory policies and norms. This is to help eliminate bias that negatively impacts minority groups.

The third guarantee is to increase the accountability of decision-makers by amplifying the voices of excluded groups in policymaking. This will ensure the allocation of community budgets positively impact excluded groups of children. These three promises help contribute to the mission of the “Every Last Child” campaign.

Tailored Strategies

The campaign customizes its efforts to fit each country’s needs. While many countries experience similar issues, not all of them are equal in the amount of impact needed. In order to reach these vulnerable populations of children, the issues addressed by the campaign are varied in each country.

For example, in Niger, the “Every Last Child” campaign advocates for the adoption of policies that outlaw early child marriage and support access to quality education. In Yemen, they fight for the protection of children affected by conflict. In Kosovo, they promote access to quality services in the education and health industries for children, particularly those with disabilities.

The goal is to make these services and information about them available to parents and families in the country to create greater access. Customizing their goals allows the “Every Last Child” campaign to focus on the most pressing issues affecting each country.

Since their beginning in 2016, Save the Children’s “Every Last Child” campaign has made it their mission to put an end to the exclusion of vulnerable populations of children. Through their research and advocacy efforts, they have helped to address the need to increase access to life-saving health care and quality education for children worldwide to ensure that no child is left out of the advancements of the social world.

Sara Holm
Photo: Flickr

solar microgridsThe United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) helped establish three solar microgrids in rural Yemeni communities. Earlier this year, the British charity Ashden honored the scheme as one of 11 recipients of its prestigious Ashden Awards. These annual awards recognize initiatives whose efforts to deliver sustainable energy have produced important social and economic advantages.

Solving a Fuel Shortage and Economic Crisis

Yemen’s energy infrastructure cannot transport power to rural towns and villages. Thus, many of these communities depend upon highly-polluting diesel generators. However, longstanding conflict and crippling embargoes have made fossil fuels scarce and expensive. Moreover, oil prices have fluctuated in recent years, and poverty has skyrocketed. This crisis has affected approximately three-quarters of Yemen’s population. Current estimates indicate that more than two out of five households have been deprived of their primary source of income. It’s also been found that women are more acutely impacted than men.

Now, the energy situation is shifting. The UNDP has provided funding and support to three different groups of entrepreneurs that own and operate solar microgrids. The three are located in Abs in the district of Bani Qais in the northwest and in Lahij Governate in the south. Their stations provide clean, sustainable energy to local residents and at a much lower price. The solar microgrids charge only $0.02 per hour as opposed to the $0.42 per hour that diesel costs.

Such savings for households and businesses have greatly impacted the local economies. Not only can people work after sunset, they also possess more disposable income. According to Al Jazeera, approximately 2,100 people have been able to save money and put it toward creating their own small businesses. These include services for welding, sewing, grocery stores and other shops. So far, a total of 10,000 Yemenis have benefitted from the energy provided by the three solar microgrids.

Empowering New Leaders in Business

The entrepreneurs who founded and now run the microgrid facilities in Bani Qais and Lahij Governate are young men. However, the power station in Abs is completely owned and operated by women. These Abs women receive training in necessary technical skills and study business and finance.

Some expected the scheme to fail due to the sophisticated knowledge it required and the relative inexperience of the facilities’ operators. Well, one year has passed, and the solar microgrids are running at full capacity. The project thus offers a valuable model for creating jobs in a country where civil war has shattered the economy and hobbled basic infrastructure.

Specifically for the women in Abs, though, a steady income and the ability to provide a much-needed service have increased their self-confidence. These women can feed their families and use the university educations they each worked for to a great extent. As the station’s director explained, their work has even earned them the respect and admiration of those who used to ridicule them for taking on what was once considered a man’s job.

Looking to the Future

The success of the UNDP’s project’s first stage shows a possible solution to Yemen’s problem of energy scarcity. The UNDP now works to find funding for an additional 100 solar microgrids. Since civil war began in 2015, both sides have tried to limit each other’s access to the fossil fuels that Yemen depends upon. Pro-government coalition forces have prevented ships cleared by the U.N. from unloading their cargoes in the north. On the other side, Houthi-led rebels have recently suspended humanitarian flights to Sanaa, the country’s largest city and its capital. This is all in the midst of hospitals struggling to care for patients during the pandemic.

The UNDP’s solar microgrids are a source of hope among the many conflicts plaguing Yemen. More still, it is likely others will soon follow in the footsteps of the three initial young entrepreneurs. These solar microgrids stations have empowered Yemeni communities to build better and more sustainable futures and will for years to come.

Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Save the Children’s Work in YemenSince the civil war in Yemen started in 2015, conflicts have left the country facing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. In the five years since the violence broke out, more than 3.6 million people have fled the country, and 24 million people, about 80% of the entire country, are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance—a figure that includes 12 million children. Two in three people in Yemen are not able to afford food, leaving half of Yemen in a state of near starvation. Over 70% of the country faces a severe shortage of food, safe water and healthcare, and there have been over one million cholera cases, 25% of them being of children. Save the Children in Yemen is working to aid children affected by the humanitarian crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Yemen Crisis Amid COVID-19

With the COVID-19 pandemic, Yemen has plunged deeper into poverty. The health care system is crumbling, with 50% of health facilities not operating and a lack of basic equipment, such as masks and gloves as well as medical equipment to treat COVID-19 like oxygen and ventilators. Health care workers are working without an income. Yemenis children under the age of 5 now experience the highest rates of acute malnutrition ever recorded, the number reaching half a million children in southern Yemen.

Even before the pandemic, a child died every 10 minutes due to preventable diseases, such as diarrhea and malnutrition, as there are no doctors in 20% of Yemeni districts. Amid the Yemen crisis, children are killed and injured, their schools are shut down and health care facilities are closed. With the situation leaving children more vulnerable than ever, the danger driven by war and poverty is now even further amplified by the pandemic.

Yemen’s unstable health care system is nowhere near equipped to handle the surge of COVID-19 cases amid the pandemic. In the entire country, there are only 500 ventilators and four labs for COVID-19 testing for a population of nearly 30 million. Despite the lack of preparation and available resources, there have been more than 2,000 COVID-19 cases in the country as of October 2020. The number of malnourished children under the age of 5 could rise to 2.4 million by the end of the year.

Save the Children Leading Child Aid in Yemen

Save the Children is the largest aid organization in Yemen that aims to provide basic needs and assistance to vulnerable children in the country. Since the organization started assisting Yemenis children in May of 2015, it has reached more than three million kids. Save the Children has protected 55,608 children from harm, supported 1,784,041 children during the crisis and helped 98,127 parents provide their children with basic needs.

With the support of donations, Save the Children has kept 75 of its health care facilities operating. Especially for displaced or refugee children, it is almost impossible to practice social distancing and sanitary precautions, thus increasing the risk of spreading the virus. To combat this, Save the Children is distributing sanitary supplies and providing health care to protect vulnerable children in Yemen.

– Mizuki Kai
Photo: Flickr

Investing in Peace
The World Bank recently estimated that, by 2030, up to two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor would live in fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCS). FCS have serious impacts on poorer countries: conflicts reduce GDP growth, on average, by 2% a year and force millions of people to flee their homes. The number of forcibly displaced people worldwide has more than doubled since 2012, exceeding 74 million in 2018. Of these people, almost 26 million are refugees, the highest percentage ever recorded, with developing countries hosting 85%. This puts a financial and social strain on host countries while also devastating generations of refugees. Constant displacement makes it difficult for refugees to maintain a stable source of income, have consistent access to basic necessities and receive an education. In fact, one in five people in countries that FCS affects suffers simultaneously from inadequate monetary, educational and basic infrastructure resources, making social mobility difficult. As a result, investing in peace is very important.

The Correlation Between FCS and Poverty

There seems to be a correlation between living in FCS and poverty, as the 43 countries with the highest poverty rates in the world are in FCS in Sub-Saharan Africa. World Bank data shows that economies in FCS have maintained poverty rates of over 40% in the past decade, while economies that have escaped FCS have cut their poverty rates by more than half. On an individual level, a person living in FCS is 10 times more likely to experience poverty than a person living in a country that has not experienced fragility or conflict in the past 20 years.

A solution to poverty might be investing in peace: invest in businesses, organizations or development agencies that work to lessen the prevalence of FCS around the world. While humanitarian interventions may bring about peace in the short term, they often do not address development after the establishment of peace. In addition, many conflicts around the world have become protracted and complicated, making humanitarian interventions less effective in the long run. Development agencies, on the other hand, work to establish peace in three-time frames: before, during and after conflict.

Before Conflict

One important step in lessening the prevalence of FCS around the world is to prevent conflict before it begins. This means identifying and addressing a point of conflict within a country or community before it becomes widespread, complex and potentially violent. Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, emphasized the importance of investing in conflict prevention: “Instead of responding to crises, we need to invest far more in prevention. Prevention works, saves lives and is cost-effective.” Estimates have determined that for every $1 the United States spends on conflict prevention, it saves $16 in future response costs. On a larger scale, this finding emphasizes the importance of investing in peace to curb the need for an expensive humanitarian intervention when the conflict is widespread, complex and violent.

One example of an American law promoting investments in conflict prevention is the Global Fragility Act of 2019. It focuses on U.S. foreign aid to prevent violent conflict in fragile countries and strengthens research to identify foreign assistance programs that are most effective at preventing conflict and violence. The act authorizes $1.15 billion over the next five years to fund violent conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts in countries in FCS. The act also benefits U.S. taxpayers, since violent conflict prevention is much more cost-effective than containing a conflict through humanitarian intervention.

During Conflict

Some development agencies around the world make medium-term to long-term investments in countries with ongoing, protracted conflicts. The investments aim to preserve human capital and strengthen local institutions working to promote peace and protect civilians. These investments serve as a social safety net for those at risk, providing them with basic necessities and services such as access to water, food and education. Violent conflicts can significantly affect the accumulation of human capital in a population, and the effects can be long-lasting if the conflict is prolonged across generations. Thus, it is important to provide people with this social safety net to ensure that they can rebuild their lives economically and socially after the conflict ends.

A successful example of investment in a country amid conflict is the World Bank’s investments in Yemen. Yemen has been in crisis for nearly a decade, since the Houthis overthrew its government, resulting in what the U.N. has called “the worst [humanitarian crisis] in the world.” Millions of people have been internally displaced while suffering from medical shortages and threats of famine. The World Bank’s International Development Association has allocated $400 million to creating jobs and providing refugees with essential resources under its Emergency Crisis Response Project (ECRP). As a result, 4.3 million people have received access to community services (water, sanitation, better roads, etc.) and 9.5 million workdays have emerged. Another component of the ECRP is a $448.58 million cash transfer to poor and vulnerable households. As of April 9, 2020, the transfers had reached 1.42 million households or 9 million individuals. The World Bank’s Engagement Strategy for Yemen 2020-2021 will continue funding for the ECRP and other initiatives to provide essential services, preserve Yemen’s human capital and strengthen local organizations helping those in need. 

After Conflict

Investing in post-conflict peacebuilding is another way in which development agencies can help those living in FCS. Investments in peacebuilding can supplement humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts by promoting economic and social growth after a conflict has ended. An important part of promoting economic growth is investing in micro to medium-sized businesses as a means to create jobs and jumpstart the local economy. It is also important to invest in the government to ensure that it can provide its citizens with essential services and resources well after the conflict has ended.

One agency investing in post-conflict peacebuilding is the United Nations (U.N.) Peacebuilding Fund (PBF). The PBF is a financial instrument used to sustain peace in countries in FCS. The PBF invests with other U.N. entities, governments, multilateral banks, NGOs and national multi-donor trust funds. Since its inception, 58 member states have contributed to the fund, with the allocation of $772 million to 41 recipient countries from 2006 to 2017. The Secretary General’s PBF 2020-2024 Strategy calls for the investment of $1.5 billion to countries in FCS over the next five years. The largest distribution of funds (35%) will go towards facilitating transitions from humanitarian missions to peacebuilding and future development. 

Looking Forward

Preventing, creating and maintaining peace in FCS is a daunting task that may take years to accomplish in certain areas. It is important to invest in peace at all three stages of conflict to save lives, save money and preserve resources. There are currently numerous multilateral aid agencies investing billions of dollars into countries in FCS, and one would hope that these efforts, along with humanitarian interventions, will lessen the prevalence of FCS around the world. Investing in peace could be the beginning of the end of global poverty, and if the world works together to lessen FCS, it could lift millions of people across out of poverty globally.

Harry Yeung
Photo: Flickr