By Radwan Jakeem
Yemen, currently among the poorest countries in the world, continues to be mired in a conflict underway since 2015, which in addition to the loss of life is tearing apart livelihoods, social fabric, causing Yemen to teeter on the brink of famine, and resulting in widespread reversals of development progress.
A new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report projects that in the last six years the crisis has caused Yemen to miss out on the US $126 billion of potential economic growth. However, it adds that war-torn Yemen can end extreme poverty within a single generation, by 2047—provided that the conflict devastating the country for the last six years ends now.
UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said: “This report on Yemen provides new insights into the world’s worst humanitarian and development crisis. Millions of Yemenis continue to suffer from the conflict, trapped in poverty and with little possibility for jobs and livelihoods.”
Through statistical modelling analysing future scenarios, the report shows that the securing of peace by January 2022, coupled with an inclusive and holistic recovery process, can enable Yemenis to reverse deep trends of impoverishment facing the country and see Yemen leap to middle-income status by 2050 while eradicating extreme poverty which now affects 15.6 million people.
The report also projects that malnutrition can be halved by 2025 and that the country can achieve $450 billion of economic growth by 2050 in an integrated peace-and-recovery scenario.
”The study presents a clear picture of what the future could look like with a lasting peace including new, sustainable opportunities for people. To help to get there, the entire UN family continues to work with communities throughout the country to shape a peaceful, inclusive and prosperous future for all Yemenis.”
Peace dividends and grim trajectories
The report, carried out by the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures at the University of Denver, is the third part of the Impact of War on Yemen series. Like the previous editions, the report uses an integrated statistical modelling technique that forecasts future scenarios.
While identifying potential peace dividends, the report also contains grim projects of future trajectories should the conflict continue into 2022 and beyond.
If the conflict continues through 2030, the report projects that it will have taken 1.3 million lives by that year. Moreover, the report shows that a growing proportion of those deaths will not occur due to fighting, but due to second-order impacts that the crisis is waging on livelihoods, food prices, and the deterioration of basic services such as health and education.
Thus far, the report projects that 60 per cent of deaths from the crisis have been caused by these secondary factors—a proportion projected to grow to 75 per cent by 2030 if the war continues.
In this way, the report sheds light on the lesser-known yet widespread impacts that a persisting crisis in Yemen will continue to have across key dimensions of development and well-being. The crisis has already pushed an additional 4.9 million people into malnutrition, and the report projects that this toll will grow to 9.2 million by 2030 if the war persists; by the same year, the number of people living in extreme poverty would surge to 22 million, 65% of the population.
While urging that peace is the only viable way forward to end the suffering in Yemen, the report also calls upon national, regional, and international stakeholders to adopt an inclusive and holistic recovery process, across sectors and inclusive of the entirety of Yemeni society.
The report says support for recovery must go far beyond infrastructure and have people at the centre; investment focused on agriculture, women’s empowerment, capacity development, and effective and inclusive governance and institutions are projected to have the highest return on development.
The analysis emphasizes that women’s empowerment is key to recovery, with projections showing that focused efforts on uplifting women and girls across Yemen can boost its GDP by 30% by 2050 while halving maternal mortality by 2029.
The report sends a hopeful message that not all is lost in Yemen. However, it also makes clear that with the staggering effects of the conflict witnessed over the last six years, there is no time to waste as the situation continues to propel in a downward spiral. Plans to support recovery must be continuously developed even as fighting continues.
“The people of Yemen are eager to move forward into a recovery of sustainable and inclusive development,” said Khalida Bouzar, Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for the Arab States. “UNDP stands ready to further strengthen our support to them on this journey to leave no one behind so that the potential of Yemen and the region can be fully realized – and so that once peace is secured, it can be sustained.”
UNDP works across Yemen to help people meet their most basic needs, restore livelihoods, support communities, and advance peacebuilding.