Yemen: In a New Years Beginning [Archives:2001/03/Focus]

January 15 2001

Jalal Al-Sharaabi
Yemen Times

A year has elapsed since the beginning of the 3rd millennium. However, there are still many questions about Yemens situation in this new year and about what has been achieved so far.
Available statistics and facts about childrens situation, their education, increase of poverty rate, overpopulation, deterioration of agriculture and water shortage are big problems facing the improvement of the standard icome level for the Yemeni citizen and for improving the national economy. Above all, corruption prevailing in ministries and lack of a strong administrative control policy have shifted most of the country into a corruption breeding environment that requires much effort to rectify. The situation is getting worse in terms of violations of human rights and freedom of press.
Statistics reflect ominous indications about the horrifying rate of population growth, which is estimated at 3.7%. With this incredible rate, Yemen is only second to the Gaza Strip in population growth in the world. According to the census of 96, the population density was 13 people per one square kilometer in 1995. Undoubtedly, this ratio is more than double the 1996 figures by now. This poses many challenges facing the national economy. The rapidly growing population rate has led to the deterioration of the national economy and shortage in vital requirements such as water and agricultural land.
As far as poverty is concerned, it is pathetic to admit that the average total monthly spending per capita for a Yemeni does not exceed YR 800. This average is too much below the international poverty line. According to a survey study about the average Yemeni family budget, the average monthly spending of the poor is 614 Rials in rural areas and 623 Rials in urban areas. According to the study, 17.4% of people in urban areas live under the poverty line.
Participation of Yemeni woman in the development process is still small due to many reasons. The rate of illiteracy among females is high, especially in the countryside where it reaches 84%. Besides, many females join education at a late age. Furthermore, due to marriage or financial deficiency, most girls discontinue their education at the primary stage or university level.
Womens role is confined to hard seasonal agricultural jobs in which they form 83% of the total labor force. However, women are not trained or taught to achieve the maximum benefit from their hard work in this field as they use primitive tools and ideas. About 20% of the national economy was contributed by Women in 1994.
As for children, the issue turns took dangerous. It is difficult to admit that even as we are in the third millennium, Yemeni children are still deprived of basic education. Even though the government had allocated 20% of its budget to education, this was still not enough to cover all students, as 30% to 40% of Yemeni children are not enrolled in any educational program. Yemen needs more than 15 thousand new schools to overcome this problem. If the problem continues, we may be slowly building up a partially illeterate generation, which is both shameful and unaccceptable. Adding to that the fact that 400,000 Yemeni children are born in Yemen every year, leading to the conclusion that if nothing is done, our future is surely going to be in the hands of illetartes. Adding to this, the misery of 89% of children, who represent the child labor sector. Millions of children work as farmers, blacksmiths, mechanics, car-cleaners and street sellers on sidewalks and crossroads. It is sad to say it, but Yemeni children are not only deprived of education and qualitieis of life, they are even deprived of their own childhood.
Lack of food security is another major problem in Yemen and must be given top priority as soon as possible. A study made in 1998 indicated that locally produced good goods for the year 1997 showed a downward trend due to the drop of the governments subsidy on foodstuff from 75% to 15%.
As for the livestock wealth, we find that despite the increasing number of livestock to more than 10 million, pasture lands are unsufficient for the increasing numner, leading to the spread of diseases, of which the deadly Rift Valley Fever that killed humans as well as llivestock was the latest.
As for the water issue, we certainly can see a potential water crisis within the few coming years. Being the only renewed resource of water, rain provides quantities of water estimated at around 93 billion cubic meters annually. Despite this large quantity of rain water, it is wasted due to the lack of dams or draining channels. The latest estimation of the amount of surface water flowing on Yemeni lands ranged between 1.5 and 2 billion cubic meters and the annual quantity of drawn-up waters from underground is estimated at a staggering 2.4 billion cubic meters, 90% of it used for agricultural purposes, especially for qat. This matter causes the level of water to decrease on an average of 0.6% to 6 meters annually. The water balance has become negative at about 900 billion cubic meters due to the increasing consumption of water from the 45 artesian wells. The statistics of the Planning General Administration indicated that the number of water reserve projects built and financed by the Investment Program was 34 dams and reservoirs. Experts remind once and again that if nothing is done soon, there may be a potential of a national water crisis, especially around the Sanaa basin.
The provided statistics and numbers do make us concerend of the progress of our country. However, the many challenges and problems mentioned are left for the officials to ponder for some time.
Against all of those numbers, shall we have hope in the possible progress and developmental process of our country, or are we just fooling ourselves and should give up hope?
You decide!