Yemen + 1 more

Humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable populations of Yemen

Amount of decision: 2,530,000 euro
Decision reference number: ECHO/YEM/BUD/2004/01000

Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population:

1.1. - Rationale:

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world; it's still slowly recovering from the war which opposed the North and the South of the country until 1994. Contrary to other countries which suffered trough a war, Yemen never received massive assistance from the international community, which helps to explain why, even after the conflict's end, the country has difficulties to right itself. The population of Yemen is essentially rural, living in precarious social and economic conditions and it has not yet felt the benefits of economic growth. On the Human Development scale, Yemen is classified as the 149th(1) country out of 177 and a large part of its population lives under the poverty line. Since 1995, the Yemeni authorities have tried to move towards the pursuit of macro economic reforms and structural adjustment. They have demonstrated the will to improve the situation and are willing to cooperate with the international community. A lot of efforts are still needed in order to reach a growth rate sufficient to improve the living condition of the Yemenite population.

The rate of the population growth is of 3,5% per year(2) ; the excessive population growth represents a major obstacle for the development of the country and might seriously neutralize all the government's effort and the donor's support. The latest ECHO mission of October 2004 has confirmed that the health sector and the supply of drinkable water are sectors of urgent needs. What's more, certain parts of the population (children, refugees, displaced, communities belonging to the lower casts) suffer from very precarious living conditions.

The army doesn't totally control the territory and tensions and tribal wars regularly cause deaths. Insecurity constitutes another major obstacle to development.

Indicators and environment

In Yemen, the crude mortality rate is superior to 1, and the mortality rate of the under 5 years old children is higher than the standard. The combined presence of other indicators, such as malnutrition rates higher than the standard, damaged infrastructures(3) and insufficient access to water call for a humanitarian answer.

The health sector accuses very unfavorable indicators compared to the countries of the Arabic peninsula or North Africa in particular for women and in a rural environment. Health is not a priority for the Yemeni authorities (currently 3% of the public expenditure or 1.6% of the GDP). Since 1996, the majority of expenditure for the mother and child health programs has been financed by the international community. In view of the high birth rate and of the resulting population increase, there is an increasing demand for medical care. But the health system is characterized at the same time by a weak coverage of the basic health services, particularly in the rural areas where less than 25% of the population has access to these services and by under investment involving low quality of services.

The mortality rates remains high: the average rate of infant mortality is of 107°/°° and maternal mortality exceeds 570 for 100,000(4). The malnutrition rates are significant: 33% of the Yemeni population suffers from malnutrition. 46% of the children under 5 years of age weight less than the normal weight and 15% of them, are largely below the normal weight.

While being endemic, the malaria problem should not be underestimated. 1.5 million people develop malaria symptoms leading to 15,000 death per year mainly in the coastal areas.

Less than 69% of the population has access to drinking water and in the rural areas this figure decreases to 32%. In certain regions, the water conveyance networks are strongly damaged and are no longer operational. According to a study undertaken by DIA(5) specialists, at least 25% of the serious illnesses are thus likely to result from non-drinking water consumption.

There also exists in Yemen a major disparity between men and women. The indicators on the situation of women are much less favourable because of the cultural context and of the traditions which prevent their social and economic development and restrict their mobility and access to educational and health services. The education rate (primary school), for example, barely reaches 67% for men and only 25% for women(6).

Moreover, Yemen is a high-risk country regarding natural disasters. Storms and floods represent the biggest problems. These natural disasters are very little mediatised but they cause considerable damage on a local level especially in the east of the country and in the mountainous regions.

The reality of these figures is confirmed by the reality of the ground: the ECHO missions made it possible to check that, in the majority of the areas visited, the population does not have access to drinking water and has to choose between hour long walks or the consumption of non-drinking water. On the issue of health, the situation is even worse, since numerous dispensaries bear only the name and are in a total state of decay: unstable walls, absence of medicines, of medical guides and of most of the basic equipments. Doctors or nurses work while they themselves are sometimes afflicted malaria.

The mission that ECHO led in October 2004 made it possible to note that new needs have appeared: since September 2004 a surge of new refugees, up to 150 new arrivals per day, joined the Somalian, Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees already present; UNICEF confirms that children's traffic is in the process of expansion in Yemen. This has an indirect impact on the number of homeless children which is substantially increasing. Tribal tensions and/or confrontations between governmental forces and rebellious factions continue to lead to numerous deaths. The summer confrontations could have caused up to 5,000 deaths, mainly civils, in the Saada governorship in the North of the country as a result of the confrontations between the army and a radical Chiite faction.

Other people are also very vulnerable: the Akhdam community live in a very precarious situation (slums and shanty towns).

Lack of means:

Yemen can be regarded as penalised by its relative seclusion: it belongs neither to the group of the Mediterranean partners (MEDA) of the European Union, nor to the ACP group (FED). Cooperation with Yemen is thus affected by the low level of financial aid: Yemen receives only $ 15 by person against an average of $ 80 for the other less developed countries.

Because of the lack of means to ensure a real development policy and because of the incapacity of the Yemeni authorities, the majority of the basic needs of the rural people end up requiring a humanitarian intervention. It is particularly true for the rural areas and most isolated areas.


(1) HDI (human Development indicator) of 2002 source UNDP-2004)

(2) on average 6.2 children per women

(3) It is the case regarding the water conveyance system damaged by a hurricane in 2003 (Al Mahra) and for the inundation victims in 2004(Taez)

(4) Data (UNICEF/UNDP)

(5) French NGO

(6) Data from 2000 published by in 2003 by UNICEF