We can't let the socio-economic fabric of Yemen erode further
20 Jul 2015 by Mikiko Tanaka, Country Director at UNDP in Yemen
Yemen is in deep crisis in so many ways – humanitarian, political, security, economic, and social. The infrastructure damage that we can see on the ground is devastating, as is the growing number of civilian casualties.
However, what is not as visible but just as alarming is how the socio-economic and institutional fabric has eroded. Civil servants, private sector, civil society, and students are not able to work or study. Livelihood opportunities, economic activity, and public services in many parts of Yemen have come to a standstill since fighting began, in a country already long marked by deep poverty and inequality.
Yemen’s strength is said to be its informal systems through family, regional, and community ties, and we see many Yemenis in need helping others in need. But even the strength of informal systems is eroding as assets are depleted, income sources cut, law and order collapsed, and people’s psychological strength exhausted. Communities are consumed with coping with the hard reality of the conflict, as the complexity of the crisis fragments society and exposes old and new divides.
Recent events in the Arab States region have proven that when crisis becomes protracted, the negative impact on development can be devastating. UNDP research on Syria, for example, shows that since fighting broke out in that country in 2011, many development indicators have rolled back to levels not seen in over four decades.
Before the war, Yemen was ranked 154 in the Human Development Index with among the highest levels of poverty, unemployment, and illiteracy and lowest rates of education and nutrition of the Arab States region. A UNDP study carried out in 2013 in Yemen showed that people’s livelihoods were already on the decline in the midst of the instability that has prevailed in many parts of the country since 2011. Yemen’s humanitarian crisis has reached catastrophic scale. With over 21 million out of Yemen’s 25 million people already in need of assistance, a protracted war will completely deplete the assets and capabilities of families to manage their livelihoods.
A continuation of hostilities will drive Yemen into a level of poverty and fragility whose impacts will be felt for many generations to come.
The Yemeni people need hope, motivation, and some minimum means to do something. It is vital and urgent to restore socio-economic systems by letting fuel and goods flow into and around the country, getting people back to work and back to school. A political settlement is urgently needed. When it is attained, Yemen will require tremendous institutional strengthening in order to rebuild the state and embark upon the path to recovery.
UNDP is working to restore livelihoods, build community resilience, and pave the way for planning for recovery.
Years of hard work will be needed to fix the torn social structure and rebuild key institutions including the economy. The costs of violence and war have already been felt by too many innocent civilians, who will pay the most expensive price of all.