Yemen awaits aid — from Riyadh to New York

Selioua Muhammad, who fled Abyan in 2011, has been staying at a school that was turned into a shelter for internally displace persons. Yemen expects to receive $1 billion in aid from Saudi Arabia. Photo by: Lindsay Mackenzie / IRIN

A promise of more aid for its humanitarian and development needs await Yemen, with two international donor conferences scheduled to take place this September for the benefit of the poorest country in the Arabian peninsula.

The first meeting is set to take place Sept. 4 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the same place where Yemen secured $4 billion in pledges in May. The second will be on Sept. 27 in New York, to be attended by the Friends of Yemen.

Yemen expects to receive $1 billion from Saudi Arabia at the first conference. The money, aimed at strengthening the country’s currency, rial, will be deposited to Yemen’s central bank, according to Planning and International Cooperation Minister Mohammed al-Saadi, Agence France-Presse reports.

Yemen’s economy took a hit following the uprising last year. Its annual GDP growth went from 5 percent to  negative 10.5 percent in 2011, according to the World Bank’s country data on Yemen. The country also suffered a myriad of development and humanitarian challenges, with food insecurity now affecting about 10 million people.

Malnutrition is also a major concern in the country, exacerbated by conflict and rising food prices. An estimated 50 percent of the population is malnourished, according to the U.N. World Food Program. And in a recent blog post by Isobel Coleman, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, the country is also under threat of a water crisis.

“In Sana’a, long queues at the water pump have led to tensions between refugees and local residents,” she notes.

Several donors have stepped up their aid to Yemen in recent months. The U.S. Agency for International Development has increased its aid to Yemen to $175 million this year in an announcement in June, up from the $147 million the United States initially stated in May. The European Commission set aside €18 million (22.29 million) this August to ready the country for a full-fledged presidential elections in 2014.

The World Bank, meanwhile, announced plans in June to commit $400 million to the country in the next two years, following an “extensive economic and social assessment” it conducted with the European Union, Islamic Development Bank and United Nations. Local service delivery, education, access to finance, and small and medium-sized enterprises are just some of the sectors that could benefit from the pledge.

Basic infrastructure needs as well as ways to boost the country’s security and stability will also be discussed at the conference in Riyadh. And Yemen expects more pledges from countries attending the conference. But for those who “cannot, [they]  will make their pledges in New York,” al-Saadi said.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.