Little information is available on the meanings of proteinuria in low-resource settings. A population-based, cross-sectional survey was performed in Yemen on 10 242 subjects aged 15-69 years, stratified by age, gender and urban/rural residency. Hypertension is defined as systolic blood pressure (BP) of ≥ 140 mm Hg and/or diastolic BP of ≥90 mm Hg, and/or self-reported use of antihypertensive drugs; diabetes is diagnosed as fasting glucose of ≥126 mg dl-1 or self-reported use of hypoglycaemic medications; proteinuria is defined as ≥ + 1 at dipstick urinalysis. Odds ratios (ORs) for associations were determined by multivariable logistic regression models. Prevalence (weighted to the Yemen population aged 15-69 years) of hypertension, diabetes and proteinuria were 7.5, 3.7 and 5.1% in urban, and 7.8, 2.6 and 7.3% in rural locations, respectively. Proteinuria and hypertension were more prevalent among rural dwellers (adjusted ORs 1.56; 95% confidence limit (Cl) 1.31-1.86, and 1.23; 1.08-1.41, respectively), diabetes being less prevalent in rural areas (0.70; 0.58-0.85). Differently from hypertension and diabetes, proteinuria was inversely related with age. Most importantly, 4.6 and 6.1% of urban and rural dwellers, respectively, had proteinuria in the absence of hypertension and diabetes. The approach of considering kidney damage as a consequence of hypertension and diabetes might limit the effectiveness of prevention strategies in low-income countries.