Communities in Yemen faced a multitude of compounding challenges that entrenched poverty in a country which was one of the poorest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region1 , even prior to a significant escalation of conflict in 2015. Beleaguered by over three years of violence, many of its institutions that deliver core services to its citizenry have collapsed, leaving households vulnerable to shocks and in a state of perpetual precariousness. Facing these conditions, and with thousands internally displaced as a result of the violence, the international community has largely concentrated on immediate life-saving humanitarian support. While this has undoubtedly improved living conditions and provided basic assistance for thousands, longer term support that tackles issues of governance, service delivery, infrastructure rehabilitation, social cohesion and economic recovery is needed as the crisis protracts.
Within this context, this Early Recovery Multi-Sector Assessment sought to gauge household and community needs – and capacities to respond to those needs – to inform the integration of early recovery strategies into the humanitarian response. Initiated by the Early Recovery Cluster, this assessment has benefited from inputs by Fewsnet and Oxfam Yemen, as well as from Cluster Coordinators. In addition, the engagement from the Central Statistical Organization and the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation (MoPIC) was vital to the completion of the assessment. Finally, the assessment would not have been possible without the efforts of AFCAR, in particular of Adnan Qatinah and Sharaf Alkibsi, whose support on the ground was essential.
This assessment combines quantitative data that is designed to be representative of the conflictaffected districts across Yemen, with qualitative data from focus group discussions and key informant interviews, and with existing secondary data sources. The sample was stratified by displacement status and offers gender and urban-rural disaggregations wherever applicable.
Overall, the assessment finds that households in districts across all five hubs of the response are suffering from extremely poor socioeconomic conditions, compounded by severe challenges in local governance and service delivery. Conditions appear to be particularly poor in districts in Al Hodeidah hub where households and communities reported poorer conditions across multiple indicators. For instance, 90% of households there reported that their household’s income had been “very much reduced” in the past year, while 72% cited damage to health infrastructure in their own community.
Districts in Saada hub also performed poorly, particularly in damage to education infrastructure and in terms of local authority capacities to meet needs. In addition, 91% of households there reported that they do not have birth documentation for children born within the last five years, leaving them exposed to concerning protection issues.
Households in Aden, on the other hand, reported relatively better conditions across sectors, with greater levels of income, reportedly less damage to infrastructure, and greater satisfaction with service delivery. Moreover, community recovery efforts were most commonly reported there, with 64% of households reporting the presence of repair efforts, compared to, for instance, just 24% in Sana’a. In households in Aden – and in urban areas more generally – rehabilitation of electricity supply was named as the greatest need for repair and recovery. Notably, while households in Aden faired relatively better compared to other hubs, the vast majority of households remain impoverished with many entrenched needs facing them.
A key finding was that households with IDPs generally fair the worst across almost every indicator including in this assessment, while host communities (including non-displaced and surrounding communities) and returnee households are relatively, but only marginally, better off. For instance, IDP households are more likely to be engaged in casual labor as their primary income source and these households also reported the most severe decreases in their incomes over the past year. Linked to this finding, IDPs are also significantly more likely to rely on friends and family to borrow money from, rather than from local institutions; likely due to their displacement. Households with IDPs also reported lower satisfaction levels across all utilities and services measured as part of this assessment.
This assessment also captured longitudinal effects to gauge recent changes in households conditions and equip response actors with an understanding of the likely trajectory of households in the near future. For the majority of households, their conditions are reported to be on a downward trajectory with key challenges – principally in the high price of food and underperforming utilities, particularly electricity and public works – that entrench poverty. These result in dangerous coping mechanisms across all hubs, namely in reducing food consumption and the selling of assets, rendering households in highly precarious situations.
Poor socioeconomic conditions across all districts was reflected in the high proportion (35%) of households reporting that they are dependent on casual labor – inherently short-term and precarious – as their primary income source. As a result, nearly half of the households report that they earn between 1-50,000rial a month, with a significant 21% reporting that they have no income and are reliant on aid. Poverty is becoming more widespread and is deepening, with a significant 56% and 52% in Sana’a and Ibb hubs reporting that they are “much less wealthy” in terms of assets as compared to a year ago. The primary economic challenge was not reported to be in accessing markets, but instead in high commodity prices: a finding that holds true across all districts included in this assessment.
Damage to infrastructure from the conflict was also widely reported with water (56%) and electricity (51%) most frequently cited, followed by health (46%) and education (41%) by respondents. Damage to water supply infrastructure was most commonly cited in Al Hodeidah and Sana’a where 70% and 66% included it in their ranking and was least common in Saada (38%). Damage to electricity infrastructure was most commonly cited in Aden (65%) and least commonly cited in Al Hodeidah (18%), while damage to health infrastructure was most commonly cited in Al Hodeidah (72%), and least commonly cited in Ibb (17%). Finally, the damage to education infrastructure was most commonly cited in Al Hodeidah (55%) and Saada (53%) and least in Aden (37%) and Ibb (33%).
In terms of rehabilitation, the water supply infrastructure was the most commonly emphasized as the majority (62%) included it in their top three priorities for reconstruction. Electricity supply rehabilitation was cited as a top three priority by more than 60% in three regional hubs (Sana’a, Ibb, and Aden).
Health services rehabilitation was extremely important to respondents in Ibb (81% included as top three priority). Just a few respondents indicated that they had capacities to repair their homes themselves, with 72% reporting that they had no capacity and a further 20% stating that they had only ‘limited capacity’.
Local governance and service delivery has also emerged from this assessment as a key area for international support. A significant 64% of respondents across the sample think that local authorities do not meet “most” or “nearly all” of the basic needs, while for 16% some needs are met and for just 0.4% almost all needs are met. Ibb (82%) and Saada’a (78%) emerge as the two hubs with the poorest performing local authorities, closely followed by Sana’ (76%). In terms of service delivery, health services are perceived to be falling well short of needs as 43% perceive it as very or somewhat incapable, compared to 30% for education. However, the poorest performing utility is electricity provision as 70% think that it is very or somewhat incapable of meeting needs, with public works (58%) and water (50%) also performing poorly.
Despite facing these substantial challenges, social cohesion has generally remained resilient. The frequency and quality of interactions both amongst community members, and between communities themselves, have not deteriorated significantly over the past year. Just 0.5% report ‘very negative’ relations, while 36% report highly positive and 38% report somewhat positive relations. Male headed households are more likely than female headed households to report better relations. Women headed households also report less frequent engagement with members of other communities, likely meaning that greater interactions are linked with better quality of relations. Within communities, the majority (58%) describe relations as ‘somewhat’ or ‘very friendly’, with only 9% describing relations as tense.
This finding is corroborated by the fact that 75% of households report feeling safe within their community as the main point of insecurity reported was the threat of airstrikes.
Ownership of personal and family IDs – key indicators for protection response actors – is low.
Particularly in Al Hodeidah hub, households generally report low levels of ownership of residency and land and property ownership documentation, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation. There was a significant gender disparity in this sector as only 50% of female headed households own a national ID card, compared to 83% of male headed households. 73% of families do not own a family ID card while a third of the sampled households do not possess evidence of the property that they own; households in Al Hodeidah hub reported lower levels of ownership across all documentation types.
Access to justice proved to be another sector where women were found to be significantly more vulnerable than men. Half of the sampled households reported that they could ‘never’ access the formal court system, with more female households (58%) reporting as such than male headed households.
Most turn to community leaders, particularly as confidence in the police is low; only 17% would turn to the police, with that figure dropping to 12% if only female headed households are included.
Overall, the multitude and depth of community and household needs identified in this report point to a need to embrace a holistic approach for international support that works not only on the provision of immediate humanitarian support, but to including early recovery strategies in the overall response for sustainable longer-term solutions to emerge. Chief amongst these strategies will be in addressing core socioeconomic challenges in tandem with providing support so that households are able to generate higher incomes and alleviate dependence on negative coping mechanisms, particularly related to food consumption. Multi-purpose cash would be an appropriate modality in which to cover at least some of the immediate needs, while longer term efforts to revive livelihood opportunities are initiated.
Considerations for response actors also include the need to examine districts in Al Hodeidah hub more closely given the extremely poor conditions of households across nearly all indicators there, while IDP households, too, will require a tailored approach, given their more entrenched challenges and greater needs. Importantly, support to female headed households to generate incomes and ensure protection considerations are much needed, particularly as a lack of documentation and lower levels of access to justice will have greater and more negative implications on this cohort. Looking ahead, leveraging the relatively resilient inter- and intra-communal ties to deliver international support, particularly through capacity building programmes for CBOS, would be a logical starting point as Yemenis seek to rebuild their households and communities from the devastating impacts of the conflict.