Almost a quarter of the 2014 Yemeni budget is allocated to the education and health sectors. Education was allocated 512.3 billion riyals (about $2.4 billion) and health 169.6 billion riyals ($790 million), increases of 17.5 and 14 per cent over the 2013 budget. “The government recognizes that the key to comprehensive development is to improve the education and health sectors,” said Ali al-Shamahi, assistant undersecretary at the Ministry of Finance.
The focus on education and health reflects Yemen’s desire to come into line with the UN’s 2015 Millennium Development Goals, which include universal primary education and the elimination of extreme poverty and hunger. A 2013 report by the Yemeni government and the UN stated that Yemen needed $48.4 billion if it was to meet the 2015 MDGs. “State allocations for education and health are appropriate relative to the size of the budget, despite the fact these sectors need more funds because the achievement of true human development depends on them,” said Marzouq Abdul Wadood of Yemen’s Economic and Social Development Research Centre.
The increased focus on the education sector reflects recent poll results, where some 121,000 Yemenis cited education as the top development priority in the country.
Yemen’s education sector faces serious challenges, especially among women and girls. The UN World Food Programme recently began a $17 million program distributing take-home food rations to girls attending school in 10 Yemeni govenorates to encourage them to continue their enrollment. “In a country where more than half the adult female population is illiterate—as opposed to just 18 per cent of men—women are at a huge disadvantage, so ensuring education for girls is vital,” said Bishow Parajuli, WFP Yemen Country Director.
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