Yemenis give up non-essentials and full meals

Harsh effects of aid cuts and the war in Ukraine
Khalid Abdulwahid
August 3, 2022

Yemenis give up non-essentials and full meals

Harsh effects of aid cuts and the war in Ukraine
Khalid Abdulwahid
August 3, 2022
Photo by: Anwar Sharif - © Khuyut

Thirty-five year-old Nabil Mohammad works as a taxi driver, and through this job he strives to provide for the expenses of his family which consists of four members. Nabil, who had graduated from the Faculty of Law, lives in a rented apartment in the capital, Sana'a, and faces challenges in providing for the family's needs and securing the rent for his small house.

Citizens say that the successive crises during the past years since the outbreak of the war in Yemen in 2015, forced them to give up many fancy or nonessential things and full meals and luxury food such as fruits, meat and chicken.

Nabil says in a statement to "Khuyut" that the war and the siege have doubled the suffering of the people, "everything has become at high price", and with the consequences of the Russian war in Ukraine, prices have increased further, and oil derivatives have increased by 30% in early July. As a result, food prices, even a loaf of bread, its price has increased from twenty to thirty riyals, and shrunk greatly in size.

This citizen said that he transports the customers who communicate with him to the places they want, and he earns according to the length of the trip (the ride). He estimates what he earns per month between 100-150 thousand riyals, while this amount decreases significantly in some months.

Nabil pays about 30,000 Yemeni riyals ($50); as a rent of his flat, paying monthly water and electricity bills, as well as paying school fees for his seven-year-old child, who is preparing to join the school in the new school year, which amounts to about $300 annually.

With the ongoing war in Yemen for more than seven years, more than 23 million people in Yemen face the risks of hunger, sickness and other challenges, an increase of 13% over the number recorded in 2021, according to the United Nations.

Nabil adds, "Even taxi profit has shrunk a lot, because of people's conditions, many cannot rent a taxi, so they turn to use public transport buses and motorcycles," stressing that he borrows a lot of money from friends and borrow food stuff from grocery shop. Many days pass often without working in which he does not even save the cost of his taxi fuel; This made provision of food, cooking gas and the house renting in which he lives a great challenge, like thousands of other Yemenis in various provinces, "If I provide one thing, I cannot afford supplying the other."

The rise in the prices of oil derivatives, not only affects taxi and private vehicle drivers, but also increases the price of transportation costs; which raises the prices of foodstuffs in particular, and other materials in general, as well as its impact on the costs of electricity and water bills. 

Curtailment of Humanitarian aids

The situation of Salah Ali, who supports a family of five, is not much different from others. He works as a security guard in a shopping mall in Sana’a, for a monthly salary that does not exceed 40,000 Yemeni riyals ($60 at the exchange rate in Sana’a; 560 riyals to the dollar) while he faces great challenges in providing a living and securing the minimum expenses of the house, which he lives in in Al-Safia neighborhood (west of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a).

Salah told "Khuyut" that: "Everything has become very expensive, my salary is not enough to cover living expenses, the cost of transportation between home and work, and the payment of electricity and water bills," in addition to the insanely high prices of materials and food commodities. Salah painfully stated that the water bill that he pays monthly jumped from 5,000 riyals to 10,000 riyals, and the cooking oil price jumped from 1,000 riyals to 1,500 riyals.

Salah receives in-kind assistance from the World Food Organization once a month or two, which fills a small gap in the family's needs, and relieves him, even a little, of the trouble of providing a living, which makes him feel resentful. According to him, the United Nations is closing its humanitarian programs because of Low funding as it confirms. As a result, in the coming months, Salah and millions of Yemenis will not receive the prescribed food rations from the monthly relief aid distributed by the United Nations.

Salah says that he can hardly provide daily needs of bread, beans and rice, while fruits, chicken and meat have been dispensed with, and Even dinner meals can no longer be provided by this citizen and many Yemenis, and this citizen concludes his speech by saying: "We suffered enough, and what made matters worse is Russia's war in Ukraine, which increases the levels of cost and suffering of people."

As a result of the Russian-Ukrainian war and its repercussions on the global economic situation, the prices of basic food commodities have increased since the beginning of this year by up to 38%. Thus, wheat flour and vegetable oils recorded the largest increases in the rural areas that were most affected, according to the report on food security prospects in Yemen during the last six months of 2022.

Abdul Hakim, who supports a family of 4, confirms to "Khuyut" that he cannot provide for his family's daily requirements, and his biggest concern is to secure the provision of a bag of wheat, so that he and his children do not die of starvation, in light of his dependence on his expatriate relatives to help him or lend him some money.

The report indicated that Yemen's wheat production covers only less than 10% of the needs, and therefore most of the basic food supplies are covered by commercial imports, which has made the country "very vulnerable to global food supplies and price shocks."

Moreover, the report estimated that wheat grain stocks in the areas under the control of the internationally recognized government are sufficient to cover nearly four months of needs, while in the areas controlled by the Ansar Allah group (Houthis) and due to the expectations of the arrival of an additional amount of wheat, will be sufficient to cover needs for nearly six months.

In light of the acute shortage of funding and the repercussions of the war in Ukraine, along with the inflation witnessed at the global level, the World Food Program announced the reduction of aid to less than 50% of the daily needs of five (5) million people in need.

The program confirmed the reduction of assistance to the remaining eight (8) million beneficiaries to about 25% of their daily needs. Further, the activities to enhance resilience and livelihoods, nutritional programs and school feeding programs for four million beneficiaries will be suspended, while assistance will continue to be provided within these activities and programs for about 1.8 million people only. 

The food program has been providing various life-saving monthly assistance during the past period to more than half of the population in Yemen, that is, to more than 19 million people, including 13 million people in need.

Food security

With the war in Yemen raging for more than seven years, more than 23 million people in Yemen face hunger, disease and other risks, an increase of 13% over the number recorded in 2021, according to the United Nations.

Abdul Hakim Nasr lives in the countryside of Ibb Governorate (central Yemen), and works as an English language teacher. He receives his monthly salary from the gifts of students’ parents, which amounts to 25,000 riyals; an amount equivalent of less than $50, in light of the cessation of salaries since the end of 2016, for about two million employees in Ansar Allah (Houthis) controlled areas.

Abdul Hakim, who supports a family of 4, confirms to "Khuyut" that he cannot provide for his family's daily requirements, and all he is keen to secure is buying a bag of wheat, so that he and his children do not starve to death, given his dependence on his expatriate relatives in help him or lend him some money.

Abdul Hakim owns many agricultural fields in which corn, coffee and the Qat tree are grown, but due to drought and the lack of seasonal rains, he no longer earns much from them but an amount that is not enough to secure food, even for several weeks.

Although bread with natural yogurt, tea and rice with tomato paste have become simple meals, but they are their daily food that Abdul Hakim is keen to provide. However, the cost of this simple food items has also significantly increased during the recent period, in light of the lack of job opportunities, as well as the absence of any other sources of income.

Economic researcher Najeeb Al-Adoufi believes that the Russian-Ukrainian war constitutes a new economic challenge for a country that imports 90% of its food needs, especially wheat, which is the main food for Yemenis, whose import from Russia and Ukraine reaches about 30%, noting that food prices in Yemen. Pointing out that food prices in Yemen will double dramatically, and the country will witness more of the state of hunger it is now experiencing.

Najeeb explained to "Khuyut", that there is difficulty in providing alternatives in a country mired in war, especially after the shrinkage of agricultural areas and the scarcity of water, which prevents the country from being agricultural par excellence. However, if the war ends, and state institutions are restored, it is possible in this case to activate oil and gas exports and cover the food import bill. 

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