The United States government is launching an internal investigation into a December 12 drone strike in Yemen. The drone strike was meant for an al-Qaeda militant, but ended up hitting a wedding party, killing 12 civilians and leaving more injured. A local journalist soon after took images of the strike and turned them over to a human rights organization working in Yemen called Reprieve. That group then turned it over to NBC News, the resulting actions allowed many to say that the U.S. ‘turned a wedding into a funeral.’

The U.S. released a statement acknowledging the attack while also stating that officials are now reviewing what happened. This is one of the few times the U.S. government has mentioned or confirmed that a drone strike is being questioned. A U.S. official, after declining to give any sort of identification, stated that, “Given the claims of civilian causalities, we are reviewing it.”

Some are calling this a ‘wake up call’ that highlights the problems with the U.S. drone campaign. There are even reports that the target of the strike Shawqui Ali Ahmed al Badani, a mid-level militant, ended up escaping the attack. Others on the ground in Yemen said that Badani wasn’t even present at the time. Baraa Shiban, a human rights activist who was in the area at the time, said that he had not heard any reports that Badani was in the area. He explained that, “Badani was from a different region so he would have been a stranger in the region.” He, furthermore, added that he believes that the US acted on incorrect intelligence.

This drone strike has, moreover, garnered a strong reaction against the U.S. within Yemen. To illustrate this, the Yemen parliament passed a resolution that called for an end for all drone strikes in Yemen shortly after the wedding day drone strike. Official numbers provided by the U.S. government claim that they have carried out 59-69 drone strikes in Yemen, resulting in between 287-423 deaths, both civilian and militant. Though more strikes are suspected to have been carried out by the U.S., they have not been officially confirmed.

Colleen Eckvahl

Sources: NBC, RT
Sources: Reprieve

Poverty and Instability in Yemen
For the successful transition of governance in an already impoverished state to take hold, basic security and stability through shared political will and access to participation must occur. For the countries swept up in the Arab Spring will each face multiple barriers to progress and implementation of new democratic forms of government. Each country has a uniquely manifested identity struggling to emerge in the aftermath of the waves of reform that have radically changed the Arab world.

The Republic of Yemen is still teetering in this revolution, and earlier this month, United Nations agencies appealed for humanitarian aid in Geneva. They reported that more than half of Yemen’s population of more than 25 million is in need of some form of assistance.

Yemenis already face difficulties in survival and achieving basic security as Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world. It is one of the least developed nations and is one of the most dry regions in the world. It ranks 140 out of 182 countries on the U.N. Development Programme Human Development Index (2009.) Nearly 42 percent of the population is poor and one in five is malnourished.

It has been two years since Yemen’s long-ruling leader Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to step down in response to the Arab Spring protests. The transition has not been harmonious and has now all but stuttered to a standstill. Threats and violence have spread and become more frequent and there have been increased attacks by Al-Qaeda across the country recently. The election of an interim president was supposed to have initiated that drafting of a new constitution ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls in early 2014.

However, like other states struggling in this Arab Spring, leaders in the transition have been unable to agree on a way ahead forward and living conditions have deteriorated further as security has devolved under extremist attacks. The situation has been so unstable that the U.N. Security Council has threatened sanctions against former regime figures and “political opportunists” impeding the process.

For Yemen’s poor and needy, this means further delays in progress and assistance will be expected. This coupled with a growing population needing more services and more access to participation will only increase the urgency in this humanitarian crisis.

About two-thirds of the population lives in rural areas with the majority of families dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. Agriculture is a vital economic sector, and it provides employment in a country with an unemployment rate of 37 percent. According to a recent UNICEF report, Yemen has the world’s fourth-fastest growing population. This means the country’s poor availability of natural resources leaves it unable to meet the needs of a population that is increasing by more than 3.5 percent annually.

People in rural areas are not only poor, but they are impoverished because they do not have adequate access to basic needs such as land, safe water, health care and education. Without an effective government to provide aid and establish programs for development, what progress made is risked and more lives stand to be threatened or made vulnerable by security failures and governmental incompetence.

Talks have recently stalled and the nation faces a transition period of two more years. Unless the leaders of this new government can quickly find a way to move forward and agree upon the next steps for the nation, Yemen risks backsliding into further violence and political deterioration with more lives lost.

Nina Verfaillie
Feature Writer

Sources: Rural Poverty Portal, Hurriyet Daily News
Photo: NBC

“We are hungry and we need jobs,” says a Yemenis woman, who faces a recording camera while standing on the side of a dirt road. Her clothes are stained by sand and her eyes are bloodshot, but she responds with firm assurance to questions in a recent YouTube video composed by activists from Support Yemen, who aimed at facilitating dialogue in the capital city of Sana. Topics ranged from the ongoing political instabilities that the region faces to other matters, such as closing the gap between civilians, military, and tribal forces. These are not the only factors hindering Yemen’s economic and social progression, as high food prices, endemic poverty, diminishing resources and influxes of refugees and migrants are also damaging the region from within.

In hopes of relieving some of the hunger the Yemenis people are facing, much needed food support will be streamlined into the region thanks to recent contributions by the Government of India and the World Food Programme (WFP.) After a Comprehensive Food Security Survey was conducted in Yemen last year, WFP found 22 percent of the population was living under severely insecure food standards. This has led the WFP to set a new goal at providing five million people in 16 governorates with food assistance and programs to strengthen their community’s resilience.

It has also been announced that the WFP will be appropriating a budget of $495 million for programs and activities in Yemen, starting in 2014 and ending in 2016. WFP’s continued effort in Yemen has already provided assistance to 5 million children, pregnant women, and internally displaced persons (IDPs.) In a place where nearly half of children younger than five years old are malnourished and stunted, there is still much more that can be done.

Doing their part in combating hunger in the area is the Government of India, who recently contributed $1.8 million in an effort that will aid almost 121,300 people most in need of assistance over the next six months. Those funds were used to purchase approximately 2,600 metric tons of wheat, which will provide emergency food assistance for 3.5 million people, 600,000 IDPs, and other nutritional support for 405,000 children under the age of five. Mohammed Saeed Al-Sa’adi, a representative for the Government of Yemen, had this to say about the donation: “We are grateful to the government and people of India for providing this timely donation and we highly appreciate the cooperation between WFP and India in delivering assistance to those in need.”

Appropriated funds going towards Yemen will provide relief over the next few years, but it will only prove temporary if sustainability and community resilience aren’t increased in the area. With a growing deficit of $3.2 billion and poverty rates on the rise since 2011, it is important to realize the consequences which many men, women, and children will face after they have taken a toll. As donations come into the area from across the globe and programs are constantly being implemented into Yemen communities, it is hopefully a fruitful sign of things to come.

– Jeffrey Scott Haley
Feature Writer

Sources: WFP, WFP (2), Saba News, Yemen Times, Albawaba

Poverty in Yemen
As one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, Yemen is currently faced with some of the most extreme poverty issues in the world. There are several issues that are unique to Yemen that contribute to this magnitude of poverty, issues that are on track to only get worse unless direct action is taken to mitigate these circumstances. If basic problems, such as lack of access to water, are not properly addressed, other matters, such as sub-par literacy rates, will continue to plague the region and exacerbate poverty in Yemen.


Top 5 Facts about Poverty in Yemen


1. Yemen’s population stands at 25.4 million and approximately 54% of those people live in poverty.  In other words, 54% of the population survives on fewer than 2 dollars per day.

2. Approximately 45% of the population is malnourished.

3. Life expectancy in Yemen is 64 years old, 14 years younger than the average life expectancy in the United States.

4. Major infectious diseases plaguing the country include Bacterial diarrhea, Typhoid fever, Dengue fever and Malaria, all of which are preventable, curable and in some cases largely unheard of anymore in the western world.

5. There is less than 1 physician for every 1,000 people in Yemen.


Major Causes Behind Poverty in Yemen Today


  • The dire water shortage: The use of the word ‘dire’ cannot be stressed enough. According to Maplecroft, a global risk analysis organization, Yemen is ranked as the seventh most water-stressed country on the planet. Even though there is a water shortage in Yemen, approximately 90% of the country’s water is put towards its largely ineffective agricultural practices. In Yemen’s capital city, Sana’a, tap water is only available once every four days for its 2 million people. Even worse, in Taiz, a major city in the south, tap water is only available every 20 days. It is estimated that in 10 years, Sana’a will literally run out of water for its citizens.
  • On the brink of famine: In mid-2012, several major humanitarian relief organizations issued a warning that 44% of the population’s food needs are not currently being adequately met. Five million of these malnourished Yemeni citizens require emergency aid and immediate action. The warning cited a surge in food and fuel prices and political instability as the cause behind the number of malnourished people doubling since 2009. Though there is food available in some cases, many Yemenis cannot afford to buy nourishment because they have been displaced from their homes due to conflict.
  • Lingering political instability: Like most of the Middle East, Yemen felt the effects of the Arab Spring in 2011. The initial uprising was centered on protesting high unemployment, economic conditions and government corruption, which included the then president’s plan to alter the constitution to allow the direct transfer of power to his son. Al-Qaeda also has a presence in the region, which further contributes to political instability. For these reasons and many others, the attempt to reach stability within the government and the region is an ongoing process. After significant fighting and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of citizens, a new president was placed in power after running uncontested in an election. The new president is responsible for overseeing the drafting and implementation of a new constitution and further presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014.

– Colleen Eckvahl


Sources: BBC: Yemen’s President cedes power, BBC: Yemen on brink of food crisis, Green Profit, Maplecroft, The World Bank


The roads of the Roman Empire were a novel concept that led to the empire’s complete dominance over the European continent. Mobility and safe transport has always been the hallmark of all successful societies and civilizations. 1.2 billion people around the world lack access to modern all-weather roads. Consequently, the paucity of properly maintained paved roads in developing countries not only hampers economic growth and hopes of socio-economic stability, but also endangers lives. The current shortfall in road safety is known to kill as many people as malaria.

A recent statement made by the World Bank Group on November 12, reinvigorates the Group’s commitment to the establishment of safe roads and transportation in developing countries. The report cites the lack of universal access to water, electricity and most recently, roads as the three main areas of concern in global development.

Roads allow for the movement of goods, trade and services within and between countries, fostering positive growth in economies. Roads also promote universal access to jobs, school and medical facilities for locals.

The World Bank currently supports projects such as the Iraq Transport Corridor Project and the Yemen Corridor Highway Project, in the hopes of boosting internal trade. The Group’s investment in rural roads in Morocco have also doubled the primary education enrollment and established regularity in hospital attendance and emergency health response.

Making roads safe and clean for children, people with disabilities, pregnant women and women with babies are also the foregrounding concerns of the Group’s transport sector arm. The efforts would save 380,000 lives over the next 10 years in the Middle East, where traffic accident-related deaths are among the highest in the world.

The enhancement and establishment of modern roads in developing countries is an innovative concept and push against social inequality. Roads are in their very nature democratic and equalizing in physical and ideological form, paving the way to universal development for all walks of life.

Malika Gumpangkum

Sources: World Bank News, World Bank, The Guardian