Spearheaded by UN-Habitat, iMMAP Dives Deep into Yemen's Urban Profiles

UN-Habitat collaborates with iMMAP to produce city profiles and information management tools to guide existing and future humanitarian and recovery interventions and a potential nationwide reconstruction process.

With funding from the European Union, the "Rapid City and Neighborhood Profiling in Yemen" project was set in motion in 2018 to produce vital information, which involved collecting data at the regional, city and neighborhood levels in collaboration with the Joint IDP Profiling Service (JIPS), and utilizing damage assessment and satellite images from the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and UNITAR Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT).

The project's primary objective is to strengthen the resilience of affected populations through better targeted and coordinated humanitarian, recovery and development interventions using urban analysis and information management tools while closely engaging with key urban stakeholders.

The selected cities: Aden, Sana'a, Al Hodeidah, Zinjibar, Ta'iz, Al Hawtah and Sa'dah, were comprehensively examined and looked at different areas, including demographics and population movement, solid waste management, cultural heritage, housing, land and property, as well as transportation and mobility. Furthermore, the city profiles provide in-depth analyses at the city and neighborhood levels.

Throughout this two-year endeavor, the project produced seven city profiles and collectively developed a web portal, damage and needs assessment, base-maps, and strategic urban planning and neighborhood action plans.

Yemen is a country mired in a dire humanitarian crisis -- the worst in the world, according to the United Nations. Before the conflict in 2015, Yemen was already considered the poorest country in the Middle East.

The drawn-out war has left more than half the population lacking access to proper healthcare, about 70% of the population deprived of access to drinking water, more than 2,500 schools damaged or destroyed, approximately 2 million children out of school, and over 80 percent of Yemenis living below the poverty line. These are just some of the ordeals ordinary Yemenis are facing, as stated by humanitarian organizations.


Geographic significance


Yemen sits in a vital area within southwest Asia. Situated at the Arabian Peninsula's southern tip, Yemen plays host to the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, which links the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean and is one of the most active and strategic shipping lanes in the world. Yemen's vicinity to substantial water bodies and crucial shipping lanes elevates the importance of portside cities such as Aden and Al Hodeidah.

Not only are the cities' maritime proximity a critical asset, but they have also become vital absorbers of Yemen's rising population. Other prominent cities such as Tai'z, Aden and Al Hodeidah have experienced clear-cut population spikes.

Sana'a is the city with the highest population growth rate throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. In the past, Sana'a has been characterized as a destination for internally displaced persons (IDP), many of whom left rural areas due to economic and climate-related factors such as lack of jobs, water scarcity, drought and natural disasters.

Historically, population movement from rural to urban settings was a recognized pattern in migration flows. However, as the country's conflict intensified and given the general insecurity in urban areas, a reverse population movement from main cities to rural areas has transformed many rural districts into areas hosting IDPs.

The significance of Yemen's urban areas drew parties into violent skirmishes over their control, which has left the state impoverished and with a plethora of urban challenges, including widespread displacement and a near-total collapse of basic services and institutions.

The country's alarming truths and damage to cities have heightened the need to focus on Yemen's urban environment. If and when the conflict subsides, the country will need to undergo a crucial reconstruction process, utilizing evidence from research to avoid past mistakes and build cities and towns that are safer, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.

To download the profiles, visit UN-Habitat's Yemen Urban Data Portal.