Statement of Christa Capozzola, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, before the Senate Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs - U.S. Policy on Yemen

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chairman Casey, Ranking Member Risch, distinguished members of the Committee:

Thank you for inviting me to testify today on the United States' development priorities in Yemen. In my testimony today, I will describe how USAID is helping the people of Yemen cope with the impact of the current political and economic crisis, and identify and mitigate the long-term drivers of extremism and instability.


Long-term underdevelopment throughout Yemen has resulted in chronic poverty, poor nutrition, and sub-standard living conditions, particularly related to food insecurity and limited water supplies. The recent political upheaval has resulted in a dire economic situation and increased humanitarian needs. Access to water is another key challenge, and fuel shortages have worsened the situation because it renders many wells inoperable. The political situation has exacerbated these underlying challenges. The near total breakdown of government services outside Sana'a has likewise heightened security and access problems for both the U.S. Government and our international partners in the most affected areas. Political violence has displaced 60,000-70,000 Yemenis from their homes since February, primarily in the south. This is in addition to the internally displaced people (IDPs) and conflict-affected Yeminis connected to the ongoing conflict in the north.

USAID Strategy

Despite security challenges and political turmoil, the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) programs continue to operate throughout the country. Most local field offices and teams are able to operate, managing and monitoring programs in some of the most volatile areas of the country. Project implementation has slowed due to security challenges and fuel shortages. Access in some area, particularly southern Yemen, remains a persistent constraint to monitoring conditions and responding to emerging needs.

USAID's portfolio is designed with sufficient flexibility to respond to rapidly changing economic and political conditions. The program supports small-scale community-led projects to improve the livelihoods for vulnerable population. These include cash for work - particularly focused on Yemeni youth - for infrastructure improvements; health services and safe drinking water; provision of agricultural inputs like seed and fertilizer; veterinary services and training; and micro-finance and small enterprise support.

Longer-term development objectives are focused on building governance capacity at the local level, particularly for service-oriented ministries such as health and education and strengthening civil society organizations to mitigate conflict and strengthen avenues for civic participation and more inclusive governance.

Current Situation and Programmatic Shifts

In the wake of recent protests, political violence and the economic downturn, USAID is expanding its geographic scope to include populations in urban areas where recent unrest has paralyzed the provision of basic services. A USAID assessment team is on the ground this week to evaluate the situation, and recommend appropriate additional interventions.

Expanding political violence in and around the Abyan governorate has resulted in over 50,000-60,000 IDPs, primarily in Aden, Lahj and Abyan governorates. In response, USAID is providing clean water and emergency relief commodities. In recent weeks, USAID has provided more than $4.8 million in additional humanitarian assistance to Yemen, including $3.6 million to respond to the increasing needs of internally displaced persons in Aden and Lahj governorates in southern Yemen. It is important to note that USAID continues to support a robust humanitarian program in the north to assist 400,000 IDPs and conflict-affected Yemenis. This multi-sector humanitarian response is concentrating on water and sanitation programs, including rehabilitating water points and addressing high salinity levels of household water.

Throughout the entire country in FY 2011 to date, the U.S. Government's humanitarian efforts total nearly $48 million, including almost $12 million from the International Disaster Assistance account, $20.2 million from Food for Peace Title II food aid, and $15.3 million for Yemeni IDPs and refugees from the Horn of Africa from the State Department's Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). Over $35 million of the humanitarian assistance we provided is funding the current United Nations consolidated appeal for Yemen, for which the U.S. Government is the number one donor worldwide. In FY 2010, the U.S. Government provided $45 million in humanitarian assistance for Yemen.

Recognizing that deteriorating economic conditions could trigger severe food insecurity and other humanitarian consequences, USAID and the State Department are coordinating closely with its partners and other international donors to identify needs and preposition emergency relief supplies in the areas of greatest concern.

Additionally, since public utilities, schools, hospitals, clinics, and other service providers are finding themselves short on government capacity, supplies, fuel and staff, USAID is providing assistance to help maintain much needed social services in some of the highest priority, least accessible areas around the country. USAID has also been responding to acute emergency requirements at the sites of large scale protests in four cities by providing medical equipment and commodities to health facilities that are servicing those wounded in the protest violence.

U.S. Government programming is able to respond to the evolving needs of the Yemeni people and mitigate the effect of the worsening political and economic crisis. The agency is implementing seven water projects to expand networks to reach more households and markets and rehabilitate wells and public water storage tanks. These projects improve access to water and sanitation for 15,900 beneficiaries in five northern districts, where two months of clashes between Houthi militants and tribesmen have displaced hundreds of families. USAID partners are also rehabilitating roads in underserved areas. The roads improve access to services and markets for 39,000 residents of 80 villages while preventing isolated safe havens that can be exploited by militants.

Additionally, USAID is equipping and supporting the operations of mobile medical teams that visit underserved communities, treating approximately 3,000 cases per month, and working with clinics to ensure that they are able to operate cold storage units for medications. The 1,500 midwives we have trained in the past year are continuing to provide maternal and child health care to their communities.

Almost a quarter of our assistance supports democratic reform by encouraging citizen participation in the political process and strengthening government institutions to deliver public services. USAID will build on existing investments to respond to a possible political transition scenario. For example, USAID provided support to Yemen in the last presidential and parliamentary elections and we are prepared to assist with future political processes and elections.

Total funding implemented by USAID (other than humanitarian assistance) grew to $77.6 million in FY 2010, including crisis-response contingency allocations from Department of Defense Section 1207 resources ($10 million) and USAID's Complex Crises Fund ($12.8 million). These resources have been critical for USAID's capacity to operate flexibly and effectively throughout the country. The total amount of funding for FY 2011 from all accounts for Yemen is still under consideration.


USAID is meeting increasing challenges in Yemen and will continue to exercise rapid and flexible assistance response to evolving conditions related to a possible political transition, economic crisis, and humanitarian needs. I appreciate the opportunity to share what we are doing to support the needs and aspirations of the Yemeni people for a more stable, unified, and prosperous nation.

I look forward to your questions.

U.S. Policy on Yemen
Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs; Committee on Foreign Relations