World Bank approves $304m grant for Yemen

Funds will tackle food insecurity, Covid-19 and education

epa08890599 Yemenis shop at a bazaar of traditional handicrafts in the old city of Sana'a, Yemen, 17 December 2020. Yemen has a reputation for traditional handicraft industries, including curved daggers for men, silver jewelry for women and onyx stones for both.  EPA/YAHYA ARHAB

The World Bank approved a grant of $303.9 million to Yemen to improve access to basic services and economic opportunities amid the ongoing conflict with Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the coronavirus pandemic.

The Washington-based lender will support two projects through its International Development Association, which backs the world’s poorest countries.

One is focused on emergency social protection and the Covid-19 response, and the other on education.

“The new projects are the latest example of how, working closely with long-standing partners, we can scale up support to local Yemeni institutions that use their strong, community-based networks to deliver key services to millions of Yemenis and give them hope for a brighter future,” said Marina Wes, the World Bank’s country director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti.

The International Monetary Fund forecast an economic contraction of 5 per cent for Yemen, which has been hit hard by the pandemic and years of conflict since the Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, and large areas of northern Yemen.

The World Bank said last month that poverty levels in the Mena region had grown by about twofold between 2015 and 2018.

Poverty in the Mena region rose to 7.2 per cent in 2018, from 3.8 per cent in 2015, driven largely by the effects of conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

The latest disbursement of aid brings the total amounts of grants from the IDA to Yemen to $2.11bn since 2016.

The funds will provide “critical support” to Yemen’s population that has endured “years of conflict and food insecurity even before the pandemic struck the country earlier this year”, the bank said.

Yemen is one of the most food-insecure countries in the world, the report said.

About two thirds of the population is food insecure while about 10 million are at risk of famine and two million children require treatment for acute malnutrition, according to UN estimates.

The pandemic has further strained “an already stretched healthcare system, where only 50 per cent of health facilities are functioning, and those that are lack basic equipment and supplies”, the World Bank said.

The IDA grant will also help reach Yemeni students, teachers and schools and will help in the delivery of basic education services.