By Jihan Anwer
On October 7th, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the German Bank for Development KfW signed an agreement for a two-year long program to address issues concerned with population growth and women’s health in Yemen. The German government has granted a total of eight million Euros for the program’s budget.
The agreement was signed by Bernd Schönewald, Director of KfW in Yemen, and Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, the visiting UN Assistant Secretary General and Global Deputy Executive Director for the UNFPA.
Albrectsen remarked that Yemen’s government had developed a very important transition plan and that one element of the plan was to improve the health and well-being of the Yemeni people. This included taking care of reproductive health, maternal health and maternal mortality.
The UN Assistant Secretary further added that with the plan in place, there was a need to deliver and show the Yemeni people and community that true change would be experienced as a result.
“The new funds, which are arriving as support from the German government, will allow the UNFPA to assist the Yemeni government in implementing much-needed projects, and make sure that every pregnancy is wanted and every childbirth safe in Yemen,” said Albrectsen.
When asked why it was important for Germany to help Yemen, Deputy Head of Mission at the German Embassy Philip Holzapfel said, “As Chancellor Angela Merkel said when president Hadi visited Berlin, ‘One only needs to have a look at the map to understand how important Yemen is.’ Germany is interested in doing everything in its power to help Yemen get out of this difficult period and on a good path for democratic transition and transformation.”
Holzapfel explained that reproductive health and women’s health issues in particular were being addressed.
“One, of course is the fact that without women’s health, there is no real progress possible in Yemeni society. The other aspect is that population growth at this stage, at the pace at which it is now progressing, is a severe impediment to progress and growth within Yemeni society – both in terms of economic and social growth.”
The German Deputy Ambassador stressed that addressing this issue is fundamental since resources are limited and if no curve in population growth is registered, it will be difficult for Yemen to extricate itself from a state of humanitarian crisis. He added that about 11 million people currently suffer from some form of food insecurity in Yemen.
Marc Vandenberghe, UNFPA representative in Yemen, highlighted how economic and social development in Yemen was closely connected with population growth.
“Population growth in Yemen is very high… every year, there are 3% more people in Yemen.
This represents a problem because there are not sufficient resources to provide enough food, water, education, and employment to the Yemeni people. We believe that Yemen’s chances for development will be enhanced if we succeed in bringing down or stabilizing population growth,” said Vandenberghe.
Doctor Jameela Al-Raebi, Deputy Minister of Public Health and Population, expressed her gratitude towards German government representatives and spoke about how pressing the issues of maternal health and population planning are in Yemen.
Mr Vandenberghe briefed those presents on activities which UNFPA will focus on in order to contribute to maternal mortality reduction. The projects will have the general goal of improving health services. Means to achieve this goal will include the upgrading of facilities, the recruitment of qualified staff, and the provision of better quality and access to health services. Family planning services, which ultimately aim to preserve infants’ good health, will also be made available.
The UNFPA is also looking forward to undertaking an intervention to relieve the nation’s humanitarian crisis, which will involve reaching out to mothers and pregnant women who reside in conflict-affected areas and who are in dire need of check-ups and maternal services.
Eiko NARITA, Deputy Representative of UNFPA in Yemen, observed how the agreement was a fantastic opportunity for a partnership between the German government and Yemen’s Ministry of Health.
“The UNFPA can contribute through this project in a very meaningful way to sustainable development in Yemen,” she said.