UNESCO Supports Historic Cities in Yemen Facing Increasing Climate Change Challenges

UNESCO expresses its concerns on the impact of the recent torrential rains and flooding on the livelihoods of local communities in Yemen, as well as the loss of invaluable historic properties. UNESCO has been closely monitoring on the ground the situation in historic cities, particularly those inscribed on the World Heritage list, including the Old city of Sana’a, the historic town of Zabid and the Old Walled City of Shibam. Culture is a catalyst for social cohesion to bring communities together towards a peaceful, resilient and sustainable future.

The preservation of fragile buildings has been undermined in recent years due to the socio-economic impact of the conflict, which has prevented homeowners from carrying out the periodic maintenance necessary to ensure their structural integrity. UNESCO has therefore been working alongside local stakeholders and partners to safeguard this heritage, by implementing emergency interventions, rehabilitating houses and building capacities.

In the Old City of Sana’a, 213 historic buildings have been rehabilitated over the past four years with the support of a UNESCO/EU project, targeting four historic cities and employing more than 4,600 women and men. The traditional building techniques and materials used in community-led restoration works have allowed the rehabilitated houses to resist the ongoing torrential rains and floods. Yet, the magnitude of the needs on the ground requires further prioritization of interventions in inhabited historic houses of outstanding architectural value, which are facing substantial damages.

UNESCO and the EU will be launching a new phase of this joint project to continue rehabilitating historic buildings in Yemen and generate employment opportunities for thousands of young people via cash-for-work schemes, building on the results of the extensive damage assessment of 10,000 historic buildings in the Old City of Sana’a, conducted in 2021, which contributed to reinforcing emergency-response capacities of local technical stakeholders.

UNESCO will also provide further support to reinforce disaster risk reduction measures and increase the preparedness of local authorities and communities for emergency management, building on the lessons learnt of the flood prevention measures implemented along Wadi Al-Sailah in 2020, with the support of the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund, which has helped the local community reduce the impact of the floods in the Old City.

UNESCO remains committed to continue supporting the people of Yemen by mobilizing resources and expertise, and create viable employment opportunities for young women and men in the country. At the same time, we recognize the need for collective efforts to ensure the safeguarding of Yemen’s cultural heritage and support disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation and mitigation in Yemen.


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