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Millennium Development Program of Yemen.

            Yemen Arab Republic is a country that is located in South West Asia at the Arabian Peninsula.  It shares its border with Saudi Arabia on the North, to the East is Oman and on the South is Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea.  The country has a population of over 20 million people.  Yemen Arab Republic came to be as a result of the merger of the South and North Yemen which occurred in 1990. Yemen is one of the poorest and driest nations in the whole world. Its GDP per capita is 460 US dollars. Yemen joined other less developed nations in the region in their commitment to achieve Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015 but despite its efforts, Yemen faces policy and structural constraints that hinder the achievements of the set Millennium Development Goals (MDG).  Another thing that leads to this failure is the high rate of population growth.  It is estimated that Yemen’s population grow by 3 percent per annum and unless this rate is reduced, millennium development goals will remain nothing more but a dream.

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             The main focus of this research paper is to critically analyze the three Yemen’s millennium development goals namely: poverty and hunger eradication, universal access to education and women empowerment and promotion of gender equality. The paper will assess these Millennium Development Goals in terms of their achievements; assess the current status and what the government should do to make them a reality.

            Millennium development goals (MDG) were the goals that were set by the United Nations member states and about other twenty three international organizations to have been achieved by the year 2015.  These development goals were eight and they included poverty alleviation, reduction of mortality rates in children, promoting development global partnership and fighting epidemics like HIV/AIDS. Generally the move is designed to economic and social conditions in the poorest nations and the declaration to commit themselves to meet these objectives were made during the 2000’s Millennium Summit, Yemen Arab republic being included. [1]

            Nevertheless some notable progress has been made and today Yemen is slightly above the poorest nations although it still has a long way to go.  The government has successfully managed to restore the country’s macroeconomic stability and has now diverted its attention towards poverty alleviation and the general growth of the nation.  The share of oil and gas in the economy has increased from 13 percent of GDP in 1995 to 34 percent in the year 2000, while the share of agriculture dropped from 24 percent to 15 percent during the same period.” [2]

            Though the fight from poverty is far from being won, significant steps have been made because as per the recently completed Yemen’s poverty updates, 6.9 million Yemenis or 42% of the Yemen’s population in 1998 were living below the poverty line and as per the same report, about 18 percent of the whole population could not even afford their daily meals in the same year.  Also 25 percent of the Yemen population are economically vulnerable and are found in the margin of the poverty line.  The rural areas are the worst affected by poverty and that is why poverty in Yemen republic is characterized as a rural phenomenon.  Almost half of the rural areas are poor while it is only a third or less could be classified as poor in the urban areas.[3]

            In Yemen, about 77 percent of the entire population lives in rural areas while the remaining 23 percent are urban dwellers but what is surprising is that 87% of those who are considered as extremely poor or those who live below poverty line and 83% of those classified as poor are found in the rural areas.  Poverty situation in Yemen was exacerbated by economic shocks that had hit the country in the 1990s.  There are three different poverty surveys that were conducted one in 1992 another in 98 and the last one in 1999 but when these surveys were looked closely; it was hard to trace poverty development track because of the inconsistency in the methodology they employed.             According to a report on rural poverty in Yemen, about 42% of Yemenis population is poor and as per the given statistics, one person in every five Yemenis is malnourished.  This is perhaps due to the country’s environmental conditions which is among the most dry, poor and underdeveloped nations in the world.  Most poor Yemenis in the rural areas rely on agriculture which is their main source of livelihood.  About 37 percent of Yemenis according to IFAD are unemployed.[4]  This country largely depends on this agriculture but its lack of enough natural resources plus its high population growth rate are the major stumbling blocks that are hindering this country from achieving its millennium development goals.  According to a UNICEF report Yemen is ranked fourth in the list of the nations with the fastest growing population.  Lack of access to safe water, land, education and health care are the main challenges that rural Yemenis face.  This is partly due to “the ownership and exploitation of strategic resources such as land and water are controlled by the stronger, more influential in society” [5]

            According to the government estimates, each person in Yemen has an access to 125cm3 of water in each year.  This is a tenth of what other Middle East nations offer to each person per year.  Much of the available water in this region is used by agriculture leaving only a small portion for household uses.  According to the same report, 0.7% of the rural Yemen’s population has no access to proper sanitary conditions.  Water shortage has very serious health implications and leads to the outbreak of water related diseases such as cholera, dysentery and typhoid resulting to high mortality rate of children.[6]

            Again, water sources are far away from the dwelling places and the burden of fetching water falls on women.  It is estimated that little girls and their mothers could spend more than seven hours in a day drawing water and this affects education of these girls.  The most poverty stricken Yemenis are those in the semi desert regions, highlands, sand dune strip, those in the fishing villages at the Arabian Sea and those found in the inter-Wadi areas.  Poverty concentrated in Yemen depends on the governorates for examples it is very high in Taiz, Ibb, Sanaa, Dahmar, Hodeida and Hadramut where population is said to very high.

            The infrastructure in the rural regions are inadequate hence the high rate of poverty.  It is estimated that only 15% of the entire rural population have access to electricity.  Road network in these areas is poor and most of the roads are not tarmacked leading to high transport costs, poor administration and limitation of both economic and social opportunities.[7]

            The objective of the government is to reduce the population by half and improve the living standards of the people who earn less than a dollar a day by 2015.  The second objective is the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger. The government is also committed to create and increase decent job opportunities to reduce the rate of unemployment among the young people and women.  The third objective is hunger and poverty eradication and the target is to halve the number of hunger victims in the period between 1990 and 2015.

            Yemen’s government has targeted the reduction of poverty headcount from 1998’s 42% to 36% in 2005 but it did not set its target for the year 2015.  according to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the target was the reduction of those earning less than dollar a day by half “this would mean reducing the $1 poverty headcount from 11 percent in 1988 to 5 percent in 2015” [8]

            Poverty reduction goals could only be achieved if four strategies are taken by the government.  These includes population growth control, economic growth achievement, service delivery improvement and social services expansion and the last one is improvement of the basic infrastructure especially in the health and education sector and other general infrastructures like energy.  The government should also ensure that there is reliable safety net mechanism that would prevent the vulnerable from falling poverty victims.

            In its bid to achieve economic growth, the government of Yemen republic is trying to change the widespread perception of Yemen as a risky place to invest.  It is also trying to make reforms in the investment policies so that people would invest in the non-oil investments.  The government is also aware of the role that gender equality and education plays in population control so, the government is trying to promote gender equality thereby increasing the enrolment of girls in education systems something that would result to population growth reduction. [9]

            The role that agricultural sector would play in the poverty reduction strategy cannot be underestimated.  When water catchments areas are protected and crops that require less amount of water are grown, there would be high agricultural production and more job opportunities and the government is working on this knowledge.  The government is also trying to boost livestock production something that will benefit women who are the caretakers.  Another thing that the government should consider in order to achieve MGD is to provide its citizens with capital to start small and medium enterprises as lack of capital is a major challenge that small investors face.[10]

            On the issue of hunger and malnutrition Yemen republic is among the few nation where malnutrition is a problem.  According to a 1997 survey, 46 percent of Yemen’s were said to be underweight.  The problem was most prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas with the ratio of 50%:36% respectively.  It is the objective of Yemen government as its millennium development goals to halve the affected population.  The government is trying to control Qat chewing which affects people’s power to purchase foodstuffs that their body requires.  It was estimated that most families spent 28 percent of their money buying Qat and 41 percent in buying food. “Data from a Hodeida survey reveal that when real incomes fell, the value of money spent on Qat did not fall leading to lower expenditures on food and nutrition’s.” [11]

            The governments target a reduction of malnutrition prevalence to 35 percent from 1997’s 46percent by 25 percent.  The challenge of reducing malnutrition is complex and requires multi directional approach for example teaching people more on diet, increasing food production, enrollment of girl child in schools which would reduce population growth and production of diverse nutritional crops. [12] If these problems are addressed properly extreme poverty and hunger targets will have been achieved by 2015.

            The other millennium developmental goal of the Yemen Arab Republic is the universal access to education.  Education in Yemen is universal, compulsory and is provided free to children within the age of 6-15 but as per the recent reports this law exists only in theory as there is no enforcement on compulsory attendance.  According to the 2002 United Nations statistics, of all the school age children in Yemen, only 72% were enrolled in elementary schools and to make the matter worse, the number of females enrolled was smaller that that of males and the case was the same in the secondary education.  [13]

            In its bid to achieve MDG goal of making education accessible to all Yemenis, the government of Yemen Arab Republic targets to increase the rate of primary school enrollment by hundred percent by 2015.  Although there is high rate of population growth in Yemen, significant changes have been made in the education sector.  “Despite poverty and rapid growth of school age population (3.7 percent per year), Yemen has been able to increase gross enrolment rates from 61 percent in 1997 to 67 percent in 2001.” [14]This success has been attributed to the government’s commitment, a lot of support from the public and financial aid from donors.  Again gender disparity in the enrolment has slightly been reduced.  The reason why many girls did not attend school was the reason that they wanted to contribute in the family economy.

            Quality of education is another thing that the government of Yemen should be concerned about.  Employment of unqualified primary school teachers compromises the quality of the education offered.  It is estimated that about 40% of all primary teachers are ninth graders. Although school curriculum has been revised, text books revised and training upgraded, the quality of education is still down and this is partly attributed to the high enrolment rates in the rural areas unlike in the urban ones.  To reduce congestion in some classes due to some students repeating grades, automatic promotion especially in grades one to three was introduced something that had domino effects on the quality of education.

            It was said that the kind of education offered in grades 4-6 had no relevance to the world reality because it lacked experimentation.  “Majority of  pupils have difficulty relating what they have leaned in the classroom to what they observe in their environment, explaining and interpreting the meaning of phenomena due to the lack of experimentation in school… Since most students have limited reading and writing skills, they could not solve problems or answer questions on many of the rests.” [15]       Poverty also affects the enrollment of students.  It was noted that children from rich families have greater access to schools than from the poor families but the problem was more serious in the primary education than in the secondary education.  As per the household budget survey, about 56 percent children from poor families were enrolled in 1998.

            There are other factors that affect the quality and access of education and these are shortage of female teachers in rural areas, lack of refresher courses to teachers, high cost of text books, lack of enough infrastructures such as toilets, classes and offices.  Though education is technically free, there are small charges such as activity fees that have also proved to be a burden to some parents.  Also there is shortage of schools and thus children are forced to walk for long distances to access them.

            The amount of money that is allocated to education by Yemen government is higher than that in many developing nations.  The government has increased the share of GDP it allocates to education from 1996’s 5% to 7% in 2002.  The entire Yemen population and its government are working hand in hand to make its millennium development goal on education a reality.

            Also to make this dream a reality donor funds will have to be increased and some reforms be made. Some donors such as Dubai cares have already made their contribution.  They have promised to support 25 schools in the rural areas and 10 in the urban areas to make this goal a reality.   In order to address the demand and supply issue of education, the community must come in and be willing to help in the completion of the half constructed buildings and increase their participation levels in decision making.  Parents must also encourage girl child to take education seriously.

            The quality of education should also be addressed.  Relevant education which relates to the reality is the one that should be offered. The government has also played its part and has built more schools than ever before.  According to the ministry of education, the number of schools built in the recent past has risen from 200 to 1200 per year. [16] The government has also increased some incentives like increasing teachers’ pay to encourage female teachers something that in turn would attract more female students.

            The third and the last millennium development goal to be discussed is the empowerment of women and promotion of gender equality.  The target is to eliminate any form of gender disparity in both primary and secondary school by 2015 but the change was supposed to be gradual.  Although there is notable improvement, there is a persistent gap in gender in terms of education enrolment. The reason for this big gap could be attributed to some historical causes such as girls helping their mothers in achieving family’s economic needs thereby denying them an opportunity to get educated.  If girls are encouraged to take education seriously, the enrolment gap would be closed in.

            Although the millennium development goal on education failed to materialize by 2005, there is a very high chance of this goal being achieved by 2015 if the government, the community and the donors would remain as committed as they are at the moment.  Though this goal is achievable, it will be a bit hard to be achieved in secondary education according to some surveys as girls tend to drop out of school at a higher rate to get married than their male counterparts. [17]

            Another target that Yemen’s government made to achieve the MDG is to increase women’s share in non agriculture jobs and increasing their representation in the parliament.  Women who are in the non agricultural sector are very few.  About ¾ of Yemen’s labor force comprised of male and about 21.8% are females with most of them found in the rural areas where their work is not paid but meant for family maintenance.  Lack of proper infrastructure in the rural areas such as piped water and good road networks have limited the chances of women becoming successful in life.  Also the fact that many females bear children at a very tender age limits their chances of being employed in non agricultural sectors.  Perception that women cannot lead has also been a contributing factor to gender disparity but this has changed of late. [18] In 2007, 125 women were appointed by the government and thirty five of the nominated were democratically elected.  The point is that if these women are employed in non agricultural sector, the high chances of early child bearing would be reduced.  Women rights should be followed to the letter.  Police and judges should apply and enforce the law as it is but not as they think.  Violators of women rights should be prosecuted to serve as examples to others.  If these moves are made then reduction in gender disparity and promotion of gender equality would be achieved.

            For one to achieve anything one has to set their targets and the same applies to the nations. It is for this reason that Yemen as a country has its own Millennium Development Goals which is has set to achieve by the year 2015.  Of these goals are poverty and hunger eradication, provision and access of education to all and to reduce the gap in gender imbalance.  The government has fully committed itself to make these goals to be true and that is why it has called upon the community and donors to assist in the implementation of its programs.  Much of these goals have been achieved and the remaining ones are said to be due by 2015.

Works Cited:

Chase S. and Khan Q.Yemen and the Millennium Development Goals. 2003. Available          at

            http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTMENA/Resources/WP31SEPTEMBER200          6.pdf.

IFAD. Rural poverty in Yemen. Sept, 2007

            http://www.ruralpovertyportal.org/english/regions/asia/yem/index.htm

Jimenez, E. Development and the Next Generation. World Bank Publications, 2006;

            293.

Khoury, N.F. and Moghadam V.M. Gender and Development in the Arab World:     Women’s Economic Participation: Patterns and Policies. United Nations        University Press, 1995; 90

Mojali A.D. Yemen nears one Millennium Development Goal, but still has Work to

            Do. Yemen Times. Issue: (1126), Volume 15, 2008.

            http://www.yementimes.com/article.shtml?i=1126;p=report;a=2

Republic of Yemen. Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) 2003-2005. May,

            2002.

            Accessed from http://www.imf.org/External/NP/prsp/2002/yem/01/053102.pdf

World Bank. World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development. World

            Bank Publications. 2008.

[1] World Bank. World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development. World

                Bank Publications. 2008; 339

[2] Chase S. and Khan Q.Yemen and the Millennium Development Goals. 2003; 7

[3] Republic of Yemen. Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) 2003-2005. May,

                2002. Accessed from http://www.imf.org/External/NP/prsp/2002/yem/01/053102.pdf
[4] IFAD. Rural poverty in Yemen. Sept, 2007

                http://www.ruralpovertyportal.org/english/regions/asia/yem/index.htm

[5] IFAD. Rural poverty in Yemen. Sept, 2007

                http://www.ruralpovertyportal.org/english/regions/asia/yem/index.htm

[6] Jimenez, E. Development and the Next Generation. World Bank Publications, 2006;

                293.

[7] IFAD. Rural poverty in Yemen. Sept, 2007

                http://www.ruralpovertyportal.org/english/regions/asia/yem/index.htm

[8] Chase S. and Khan Q.Yemen and the Millennium Development Goals. 2003; 9
[9] Chase S. and Khan Q.Yemen and the Millennium Development Goals. 2003; 10
[10] Jimenez, E. Development and the Next Generation. World Bank Publications, 2006;

                293.

[11] Chase S. and Khan Q.Yemen and the Millennium Development Goals. 2003; 10
[12] Khoury, N.F. and Moghadam V.M. Gender and Development in the Arab World:                 Women’s Economic             Participation: Patterns and Policies. United Nations University Press, 1995; 89

[13] World Bank. World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development. World

                Bank Publications. 2008; 340

[14] Chase S. and Khan Q.Yemen and the Millennium Development Goals. 2003; 13
[15] Chase S. and Khan Q.Yemen and the Millennium Development Goals. 2003; 13
[16] Mojali A.D. Yemen nears one Millennium Development Goal, but still has Work to

                Do. Yemen Times. Issue: (1126), Volume 15, 2008. Available at

            http://www.yementimes.com/article.shtml?i=1126&p=report&a=2

[17] Chase S. and Khan Q.Yemen and the Millennium Development Goals. 2003; 17

[18] Khoury, N.F. and Moghadam V.M. Gender and Development in the Arab World: Women’s Economic             Participation: Patterns and Policies. United Nations  University Press, 1995; 90

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