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SPaN (2019) Case Study: Yemen


This Case Study on Yemen summarizes the context and main features of the alignment process in response to protracted forced displacement (internal).

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Middle East and North Africa region with widespread food insecurity and malnutrition, poor health and healthcare, exacerbated by structural underdevelopment and widespread poverty. In 2012 45% of the population lived below the poverty line. The current conflict has further aggravated these pre-existing crises. Following the 2011 ´Arab Spring´crisis a transitional government was appointed and a Transitional Plan for Stabilisation and Development 2012-2014 developed. This plan identified expansion of social protection as a key priority for improving living conditions of the poorest.

Case Study Yemen (PDF)

In 2015 the stabilisation process halted following the violent takeover of state capital Sana’a to reinstall the internationally recognised government of Yemen. The results of this protracted conflict have been devastating, especially due to a defacto blockade imposed on the port city of Hodeida – the single point of entry for food, fuel and medicine imports to the populous Northern regions of the country. As a result of a blockade on the single point for imports (port city of Hodeida) and consequent disruption of markets and incomegenerating activities, access to food has become increasingly problematic for poorer Yemeni families. 

Among the few programmes still in operation is the Social Fund for Development (SFD), which in 2017, supported by EU funds, delivered assistance to around 300 000 people. The SFD was established by law in 1997 as a non-profit organisation and one of Yemen’s main social safety net instruments, with support from the World Bank. The Fund focuses on four elements: community and local development; capacity building; small and micro enterprise development; and labourintensive cash-for-work programmes. Although the Prime Minister chairs its board, it is independent of the Yemeni Government as it has independent policies and procedures. Its mandate is to achieve and align its programmes with the goals of national social and economic development plans for poverty reduction and it has a nationwide presence to implement community-based cash for work programmes.


SFD has very transparent allocation of financial resources, with use of separate bank accounts for each funding agency and an annual financial audit conducted by an independent international audit firm. SFD is a partner for main donors for large programme implementation in Yemen. While humanitarian actors in the country focus on providing immediate relief to people affected by the conflict, SFD has retained its longer-term development vision supporting the most vulnerable populations.

In 2013, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) partnered with SFD via contracts to implement cash for work (CFW) activities. SFD has been responsible for hiring youth, national experts and private sector for urban regeneration. It also hired non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) for training and product development. Moreover, SFD is present at site locations to monitor the on-site work through local engineers and architects, supported by UNESCO staff.

This case study is divided into three parts:

Scene setting

What it looked like

How it was done

The complexity of the political situation in Yemen has not allowed the SFD to scale up in response to the humanitarian crisis. In 2018, the EU also allocated EUR 10 million for a labour-intensive cash for work programme in urban cultural heritage sites implemented by UNESCO. The target beneficiaries of this programme are in particular urban youth, whose livelihoods have been devastated by years of prolonged crisis and who are at a particular risk of radicalisation by militant groups active in Yemen. 

With the return of armed conflict, the SWF programme to stop operations since budget support from both the government and development partners had to be suspended. As the situation continued to deteriorate, international organisations began humanitarian interventions. Initially, in-kind resources were provided, but later between 2015 and 2016 there was a gradual transition to cash and voucher-based responses. 

A workshop on Yemen’s post-conflict Recovery and Reconstruction was held in 2016. During this workshop, EU representatives and Member States highlighted the importance of preserving Yemen’s financial institutions to avoid an economic collapse. While humanitarian aid will remain essential in the short and medium term, it is important that the required funding is allocated to bridge between the emergency response and the reconstruction and development work.

On-going efforts towards increasing synergies between the Humanitarian Intervention Plan (HIP) and the European Commission services bilateral and thematic instruments contribute to promoting resilience and the Linking Relief, Rehabilitation and Development (LRRD) approach and provide a clear ground of discussion with other partners, including EU Member States.

The European Commission’s DGs ECHO, DEVCO and FPI are pursuing joint programming efforts to ensure synergies and complementarity with new development funded programmes in the country. A programming mission took place in December 2018 involving all relevant EU services to determine how EU tools can best complement each other over the period 2019/2020 in assisting the Yemeni population through the current crisis. At the time of writing, the results of this meeting are awaited. 

The Yemen case study was produced as part of the “Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus” (SPaN). Visit the Guidance Package´s wiki page for a full list of SPaN´s studies. 

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Social Protection - Knowledge Management Expert
last update
27 May 2019

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