Yemen’s human development indicators are among the lowest across the Middle East and North Africa region, in terms of high child mortality, child malnutrition, illiteracy and low school enrollment rates - especially among girls and in rural areas. Yemen’s mountainous layout is a challenge to delivering services to scattered communities, without road access to major cities and urban centers.
- The Yemen Social Fund for Development (SFD), established in 1997, financed sub-projects designed to extend basic education, health and environment services to Yemen’s most vulnerable population; to provide temporary employment; and to lay down the basis for improved social and economic development.
- Branch offices were established to reach out to remote communities, provide technical assistance and receive project requests.
- Recognized as a successful tool for poverty reduction and capacity building, the SFD was expanded first in 2000 and funded again on a massive scale in 2005.
Since 1998, the Fund has helped remote communities improve basic social and economic services, directly benefiting about 10 million people.
- Over 2000-06, the Fund has supported a total of 2,403 community-based subprojects reaching almost 4.5 million people representing 65 percent of the population living in extreme poverty.
- SFD designed a special program for water harvesting systems in order to increase water supply during the dry season. Water quality was improved through fencing of cisterns and the introduction of sand filters and hand pumps.
- Up till the end of 2005, SFD water supply subprojects benefited around 1.9 million people. Sixty-five large environmental sanitation subprojects provided services to a further 821,000 individuals.
- Construction of 6,534 new classrooms, and rehabilitation/expansion of 1,439 existing classrooms in 2001-04 (during the Fund’s second phase) contributed to an overall increase in enrollment rates in basic education from 62.9 percent to 67.6 percent - for girls, enrollment grew from 45.9 percent to 52.7 percent in the same period.
- Other subprojects supported the training of health care workers, the creation and maintenance of improved rural roads, and the strengthening of institutions and associations working with marginalized and disabled groups.
- The SFD supported decentralization, helping to establish the roles of the governorate and district councils.
- In addition to community projects, the SFD has improved education and infrastructure programs implemented by line ministries through technical assistance. For example, technical support from the SFD helped the Ministry of Education establish Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) allowing parents to become involved for the first time in the management and maintenance of rural schools. The SFD drafted the first manual for rural roads in Yemen - now the Ministry of Civil Works’s main reference.
- Provided US$165 million for the project’s three phases.
- Shared global expertise in the establishment and operation of social funds. Helped draft the law establishing the Social Fund, develop SFD’s operational manual, design mechanisms that target the poor, and evaluate impact.
- Mobilized resources from other donor agencies.
The international community co-financed the first two phases. The third Social Fund for Development project is supported by 15 donor agencies who contribute a total of US$300 million (In addition, IDA provides US$60 million; borrower contributes US$40 million).
Channeling of resources to the poor is a complex process that has been supported to a large extent by the establishment of the Social Fund for Development and its growing capacity at the central and local levels. However, to ensure the sustainability of the process, the institutional capacity of other line ministries needs to be addressed. In addition, adequate resources are needed to support the linkages with partner organizations and structures that have been set up at the community level in order not to lose the momentum IDA has triggered. As the Yemeni population continues to grow, the risk to sustainability of infrastructure and poverty reduction efforts also increases.