In 2011, mass protests overtook the country of Yemen, resulting in the eventual ousting of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Without the president’s stabilizing force, violence quickly spread. Today in the south, Sunni Muslim militants from al Qaeda continue to create chaos, while in the north Shi’ite tribesmen and Sunni Islamists engage in ceaseless fighting.
The unemployment rate of Yemen is 35 percent and almost half of the population lives below the poverty line. It is the poorest country in the Middle East/North Africa region and one of the least developed in the world.
However, a recent project funded by the World Bank has been making significant gains for poor Yemenis. The Third Public Works Project was the recipient of an award by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for its efforts in rebuilding Yemen.
The aim of the project is to build basic infrastructure, which the country has been struggling without. Before, only 11 percent of rural roads in Yemen were paved. The project works with local contractors to design labor-intensive infrastructure plans which provide the dual purpose of rebuilding Yemen’s roads and buildings and creating jobs. The project, both directly and indirectly, has created more than 740,000 job opportunities. It has provided work and development options to 1,900 local contractors and 1,250 local consultants.
Benefits of the Public Works Project extend beyond job creation and infrastructure building. Due to newly built schools, education has increased by 141 percent for males and 181 percent for females.
“The location of the school is in the middle of the adjacent village, [which means] people in the village can now send their children to school without being worried, and they may also permit their daughters to go to school,” says one beneficiary of the project in Al-Ghoola Village in the Dhi Been District of Yemen.
As a consequence, literacy rates have improved, as well as access to health services and water.
“The project has left different social and economic impacts on people in remote areas and the poorest in Yemen through the alleviation of poverty and addressing its manifestations,” U.S. Secretary of Treasury, Jack Lew, said at the award ceremony.
Before the ceremony, the project had already completed 3,900 sub-projects which benefit 14.7 million of Yemen’s poor. Its plans for moving forward center around the World Bank’s hope to, with the help of committed partners, turn the project into a fund which will provide a sustainable way to finance future development projects.
– Julianne O’Connor