Scaling up construction in Yemen

UNICEF Supply Division worked closely with the Yemen Country Office to scale up a large construction portfolio to re-build social infrastructure, like classrooms, water networks and health facilities.

A damaged classroom full of children and their teacher
25 June 2020

The crisis in Yemen remains the largest emergency globally, with more than 24 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. With attacks and military use of 407 education and 158 health facilities, and only one third of Yemen’s population connected to a piped water network, many essential social services have been compromised. In addition, as many as 2,000 schools are unfit for use, because they are either damaged, being used in the fighting or sheltering displaced families. As a result, many other schools are overcrowded as they accommodate additional students who have been displaced from unsafe locations. 

As a long-term approach to restore essential services for children in Yemen, UNICEF embarked on a strong construction plan. UNICEF Supply Division worked closely with the Yemen Country Office and the Regional Office in Amman, Jordan, to boost efforts in rehabilitating and rebuilding damaged or destroyed structures at a cost of $20 million in 2019, with $120 million planned for 2020 and 2021. 

Given the massive scale of the project – larger than anything ever done before in Yemen – a new way of working was necessary. UNICEF Supply Division undertook the management of the logistics and supplier contracting from its supply hub in Copenhagen, Denmark, bringing its global experience in supply operations to Yemen to scale up local efforts. 

First, a new construction unit that includes engineering experts with experience in managing similar projects was established. 

Second, contracts with qualified construction and design companies were developed to support the delivery. These partners will support the delivery of construction materials; rehabilitation of damaged windows, doors and roofing; and designing buildings that incorporate technical requirements, like cold storage of vaccines, and accessibility needs for children with disabilities, like wheelchair ramps. 

Third, a new operational process was put in place to streamline efforts and allow the Yemen Country Office to effectively and timely deliver on construction commitments. Finally, a robust implementation plan was put in place to organize the various construction projects within the portfolio based on priorities and timelines. 

These proactive efforts demonstrate how UNICEF transfers its knowledge, experience and learnings from one office to support another. 

With a comprehensive plan now in place, the next steps are to complete the activities already initiated in 2019 – selecting locations, completing architectural designs and awarding contracts – and then begin the construction of the much-needed facilities for children.