Recovery in Yemen possible – UN agency

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War-torn Yemen is among the poorest countries in the world but recovery is possible if the conflict ends now the UN Development Programme (UNDP) said in a report.

Yemen has been mired in seven years of fighting between a pro-Government Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels, generating the world’s worst humanitarian and development crisis and leaving the country on the brink of famine.

The report sends a hopeful message that all is not lost, arguing extreme poverty could be eradicated within a generation or by 2047, if fighting stops.

“The study presents a clear picture of the future with lasting peace including new, sustainable opportunities for people,” UNDP administrator Achim Steiner said.

“To get there, the entire UN family works with communities across the country to shape a peaceful, inclusive and prosperous future for all Yemenis”.

The war in Yemen has seen the country to miss out on $126 billion of potential economic growth, according to agency.

The UN humanitarian affairs office OCHA estimates 80% of the population (24 million) rely on aid and protection assistance, including 14.3 million in acute need.

Through statistical modelling analysing future scenarios, the report reveals how securing peace by January 2022, coupled with an inclusive and holistic recovery process, can help reverse impoverishment and see Yemen reaching middle-income status by 2050.

Malnutrition could be halved by 2025 and the country could achieve $450 billion of economic growth by mid-century.

While underlining the primacy of a peace deal, the report emphasises an inclusive and holistic recovery process across all sectors of Yemeni society and puts people first.

Investment must be focused on areas such as agriculture, inclusive governance and women’s empowerment.

Auke Lootsma, UNDP Yemen resident representative, stressed the importance of addressing what he called “deep development deficits” in the country, such as gender inequality.

“It’s fair to say Yemen, whatever gender index you use, it’s always at the bottom,” he said.

“Bringing women into the fold, making them part of the labour force and empowering them to contribute to recovery and reconstruction is incredibly important”.

The report by the Frederick S. Pardee Centre for International Futures at the University of Denver is the third in a series launched in 2019.

While outlining potential peace dividends, it provides grim future trajectories should conflict continue into 2022 and beyond.

The authors project, as one example, 1.3 million lives will be lost if the war continues to 2030. An increasing proportion of those deaths will not be due to fighting, but to impacts on livelihoods, food prices and deterioration of health, education and basic services.

UNDP said there is no time to waste and plans to support recovery must be continuously developed even as the fighting continues.

“The people of Yemen are eager to move forward to recovering sustainable and inclusive development,” Khalida Bouzar, UNDP regional bureau for Arab states director, said.

UN humanitarians are concerned about civilian safety in Yemen’s northern Marib governorate, home to a million displaced people.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR warns as the frontlines of conflict shift closer to heavily populated areas in the oil-rich region, lives are in danger.

“Rocket strikes close to sites hosting the displaced cause fear and panic. The latest incident when an artillery shell exploded, without casualties, was near a site close to Marib City. UNHCR teams report heavy fighting in the mountains surrounding the city and explosions and aircraft can be heard day and night”, according to UNHCR Spokesperson Shabia Mantoo.