Yemen A country in humanitarian crisis
The situation in Yemen is currently extremely serious.
For a long time, Yemen has been one of the poorest countries in the Arab world. It is currently the only Arab nation that is a least developed country (LDC). It must be assumed that Yemen would be unable to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda even if there was no conflict in the country.
The greatest problems are high population growth, water scarcity, high levels of unemployment and poor education and health systems. The agricultural sector is no longer able to feed the people. Dependency on food imports is rising. Yemen's oil and gas reserves will soon be exhausted.
The current conflict, which began in 2015, has further aggravated the situation.
Rebels from the Houthi movement are fighting against the country's official government under President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi, which is being supported by a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia. Other players in the conflict are the rebels of the Southern Transitional Council and members of the Al-Qaeda and "Islamic State" terrorist networks.
Yemen is a partner country for German development cooperation. Even in the current crisis, Germany has not suspended its cooperation with Yemen. Rather, it has adapted the programme to the challenges.
Current political situation: Millions of people in need of aid
For the first time in more than two years, direct talks were held in Stockholm, Sweden, in December 2018 between the Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government under President Hadi. The talks had been brokered by UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths.
The two sides agreed some first steps to settle the conflict: a ceasefire for the region around the main port, Hodeidah, and the withdrawal of troops; a prisoner exchange involving several thousand prisoners; and better provision of assistance for the city of Taiz, which had been the scene of fighting.
In May 2019, Griffiths informed the UN Security Council that Houthi fighters had withdrawn from three ports on the Red Sea. However, the steps that were agreed in Sweden have still not been fully implemented. Moreover, fighting within the Saudi-led coalition has led to further delays in the peace process. The Houthi rebels became the first party to the conflict to release, in September 2019, 350 prisoners as a symbolic act. However, fighting continued unabated in some parts of the country.
The United Nations considers the situation in Yemen as the worst humanitarian crisis worldwide. As a consequence of the current conflict, more than 24 million Yemenis (in other words, 80 per cent of the population) are dependent on humanitarian aid. 20 million people are food insecure. More than 3.6 million people have been internally displaced. It is estimated that about 102,000 people have been killed by the fighting. More than 131,000 people, especially children, have died from indirect consequences of the conflict, for example acute malnutrition and diseases such as cholera.
German development cooperation with Yemen
Yemeni-German development cooperation focuses on drinking water supply / sanitation and education. Germany also assists the Yemeni people in the fields of health, sustainable economic development, food security, peacebuilding, good governance, and efforts to strengthen civil society and empower women.
Cooperation during the current crisis
Even in the current crisis, Germany has not suspended its cooperation with Yemen. Rather, it has adapted the programme to the challenges. Due to the security situation, no German personnel is on the ground at present, but more than 120 Yemeni staff members of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) are keeping a large number of projects running.
Germany also supports the work of non-governmental local partners and international organisations such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
In 2019, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) more than doubled its support for Yemen, bringing it to 136 million euros (up from 62.5 million euros in 2018).
The funding is being used, in particular, to repair water supply and sanitation systems, which are vital with a view to fighting diseases such as cholera. It is also used for school feeding programmes and for assisting needy families in generating an income. Part of the funding will go towards improving health care, for example for attended births.
Ensuring the continuation and expansion of services
The purpose of Germany's activities is to stabilise the living conditions of Yemen's people and to help those public institutions that are still operating to continue to provide basic services (water supply, health, education). For example, Germany is assisting local water utilities in assessing damage, drafting emergency plans and procuring urgently needed spare parts. Since the beginning of the conflict, the activities have helped to provide better access to water supply and sanitation for more than two million people.
In the area of education, training is being provided to teachers on how to give pupils psychosocial support. Nearly 470,000 children are benefitting from German support for the repair or construction of classrooms. Germany's activities are helping to support the emerging peace process and to put in place a basis for reconstruction for the period after the fighting has ceased.