YEMEN

Yemenis aren’t just angry – they’re hungry and thirsty, too

 Witnesses say dozens of people have been killed over the past two days in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, in the bloodiest clashes in months. But the prolonged unrest is also affecting other parts of the country in a less obvious way: aid agencies warn that one in three Yemenis are now going hungry.

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Photo courtesy of Alexbip

 

Witnesses say dozens of people have been killed over the past two days in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, in the bloodiest clashes in months. But the prolonged unrest is also affecting other parts of the country in a less obvious way: aid agencies warn that one in three Yemenis are now going hungry.

 

Yemen was already the poorest country in the Arab world before political instability deepened the economic crisis. The country’s main oil pipeline was the target of repeated attacks, forcing refineries to stop production. This caused fuel prices to skyrocket. Since about 90 percent of staple foods in Yemen are imported, their transportation became much costlier, in turn making food prices soar. According to the World Food Programme, staple foods have gone up nearly 50 percent since the start of the crisis. To make matters worse, many donors have suspended much-needed aid due to concerns over security and corruption.

 

According to a new report by Oxfam, which surveyed residents of the western governorate of Al-Hodeida, many families are subsisting on rice and bread, and even then, they are forced to skip meals. UNICEF, meanwhile, has warned that Yemen is on the brink of a malnutrition disaster on the scale of Somalia’s.

 

Violent clashes erupted between anti-government protesters and security forces in Sanaa on Sunday. 

“Parents are taking their children out of school. The boys do odd jobs, while the girls go beg in the streets”

Mariam Hussein Aboubaker al-Attaf, 40, teaches at a high school in Al-Hodeida. She has organized anti-government women’s protests in her city.

 

Food prices have shot up recently. For example, powdered milk jumped from 1,500 riyals (5 euros) for 500 grams to 2,500 riyals (8,50 euro). As for bread, the price has stayed the same but the bread itself has got much lighter.

 

The rising cost of food has pushed many parents to take their children out of school. They can no longer afford food supplies, and many need their children to work. The boys do odd jobs, while the girls go beg in the streets. Begging has become rampant in our city.

 

Here in Al Hodeida, there are also severe problems with water and electricity. There is barely any running water anymore. We often have to buy water, and it’s expensive. Three cubic metres of water costs 5,000 riyals (17 euros).

 

The price of petrol has gone up [because refineries stopped production], which has just made our situation worse. Many of the young people here work as deliverymen and need motorcycles to do their job. But now they can no longer afford to buy petrol.

 

All these problems are hitting us harder here than in many other parts of Yemen because residents of Al Hodeida were already suffering from unemployment and poverty before the revolt began.

 

The residents of nearby towns try to help us out once in a while by bringing us food and supplies. We haven’t received any aid from the international community. The Arab League doesn’t seem to care about our situation. It’s like we don’t exist on the world map.

 

With the return of violence in Sanaa and other big cities, it seems the situation just keeps getting worse. However, if we want to be free, we have no choice but to see this revolt to its end.”

Post written with FRANCE 24 journalists Sarra Grira and Gaëlle Faure.