Motherhood in Yemen


Taking the future into their own hands

Yemen suffers from a high rate of maternal mortality, as our interactive world map shows. The Yamaan Foundation promotes better medical care for women and aims to alleviate poverty through family planning.

The Shababline phone system rang 62,000 times in 2016. In 2017, that figure was already reached in September. “This is a great success,” says Ashraf Badr, “especially because 60 per cent of the callers are women, many of them young girls looking for advice and assistance — and for an issue that is very sensitive for us here.”

The issue that Ashraf Badr is referring to is women’s sexual and reproductive health, which includes the matters of safe maternity, family planning and contraception. The Shababline is the Yamaan Foundation’s free hotline in Yemen and Ashraf Badr is its director. “Yamaan” means something like goodness or blessing. And the foundation truly is a blessing — in a country that lacks nearly everything.

Yemen is on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula and counts as one of the poorest countries in the world. Moreover, it has also been in a civil war since 2014. The population has more than doubled in the last 20 years and is growing rapidly. As a result, two thirds of the 28.3 million inhabitants do not have enough to eat.

But this is where the vicious circle begins: the less families are able to provide for their children, the earlier parents marry off their daughters. This leads to high numbers of teenage pregnancies and the associated increased health risks, primarily for the babies. The maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the world; Yemen was number 29 in 2015. At the same time, only about 45 per cent of the health facilities in Yemen are functioning.

Read more under the interactive world map.

Maternal mortality

216 deaths

per 100,000 live births, 2015
Maternal mortality
< 25 deaths

Source: United Nations Population Fund (PDF-Datei, 7MB)

The Yamaan Foundation stepped up to fight this situation. “Our goal is to offer women good medical care for a safe maternity,” explains Ashraf Badr, “and to make a contribution to alleviating poverty by raising awareness about family planning.” Mr Badr founded the Yamaan Foundation in 2009 with support from KfW Development Bank. The vision was to create an independent Yemeni organisation that can address the sensitive issue with state actors as well as with the population — a courageous endeavour as family planning is widely rejected in Yemen. KfW is currently financing the foundation with EUR 12.5 million.

Yamaan mainly takes a two-pronged approach. Firstly, the foundation has established a voucher system. For a symbolic price, pregnant women can purchase a book of vouchers, which makes it possible for them to go for check-ups and have support during delivery — not a matter of course in Yemen.

Read more under the image gallery.


The majority of women give birth at home. Many times, they are unable to make it to a clinic or midwife because the women cannot afford a bus or a taxi to take them there. Transportation is included in the voucher system. “The vouchers are like health insurance for the women,” says Ashraf Badr. A quarter of the voucher books are distributed free of charge to particularly disadvantaged women.

With 60 permanent employees and 300 volunteers throughout the whole country, Ashraf Badr has created a network that maintains contact with midwives, doctors, clinics and health centres. The vouchers are also a blessing for them as they are the only reliable source of income during the crisis.

Support from KfW

KfW Development Bank supports numerous projects in the field of health promotion.

More information

In addition, the Yamaan Foundation is involved in education and supplies people with subsidised contraceptives through its extensive network of wholesalers, pharmacies, midwives and volunteers. It provides information about HIV, unplanned pregnancies and how important it is to increase the period of time between births to protect the health of mothers and children. Additionally, it raises awareness about the fact that a family’s economic situation can improve if they have fewer children - always in a highly tactful manner when approaching the issue, which is particularly sensitive in Yemen.

Before the war, Ashraf Badr often appeared in TV talk shows. The foundation produced advertisements, which also always included husbands, since most women cannot necessarily decide on the spur of the moment whether and when they become pregnant and how many children they want to have.

Cover CHANCEN 2017

This article was published in CHANCEN autumn/winter 2017 “Courage“.

To German edition

Due to the outbreak of the war, the work has become more difficult. “Since then, we mainly use the hotline and social media to maintain contact with our target group,” says Ashraf Badr. At the same time, the foundation has opened up new avenues. “We go into a lot of areas where internally displaced people live so that we can also reach these people,” explains Mr Badr. “We are very pleased that the Yamaan Foundation can continue to act as an independent Yemeni organisation during the crisis, too,” confirms Franziska Grimm from KfW. She supports the foundation as a Project Manager from Frankfurt.

For many of the aid projects, implementation has become much more difficult due to the war in Yemen. But the Yamaan Foundation continues its work. “The war motivates us even more to do something to relieve the suffering,” explains Ashraf Badr. “We want to make women stronger and give them the choice of using contraceptives, thus also giving them the ability to make decisions about their own lives in the future.”

Published on KfW Stories: Thursday, 16 November 2017


All United Nations member states adopted the 2030 Agenda in 2015. At its heart is a list of 17 goals for sustainable development, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our world should become a place where people are able to live in peace with each other in ways that are ecologically compatible, socially just, and economically effective.