Wednesday, November 07, 2018

What's happening in Yemen

War, famine, and poverty are wreaking havoc in Yemen. Millions of families are in dire need of food and medical supplies.

The war over control of the country between the Houthi military faction, and a coalition of Gulf states led by its regional ally, Saudi Arabia, is entering its fourth year and has pushed one of the world's poorest nations deeper into a humanitarian crisis. Western governments are under increasing pressure to act to avert Yemen's collapse.

The country's economy has been particularly hit hard by the war. According to the World Bank, about 40 percent of Yemeni households have lost their main source of income within the last four years, with the poverty rate now up to 80 percent. The economic situation deteriorated further in September, with the rial losing almost two-thirds of its value in less than two weeks.

Mustafa Nasr, chairman of the Studies and Economic Media Center (SEMC) which has just released a new report on Yemen, told DW that the economy has been in steady decline since the war broke out. "But the unprecedented depreciation of the Yemeni Rial in September 2018 proved the most severe blow to the economy since the conflict began. For the first time, Yemenis watched documented reports of citizens eating plant leaves, in spite of the fact that more than $5 billion was spent on humanitarian relief operations over the past three years."

The loss in value has contributed to a sharp rise in commodity prices. SEMC data, gathered from six Yemeni governorates including Aden, Taiz and Sanaa, showed that basic foodstuffs like flour, sugar, rice, cooking oil and milk were 30 percent more expensive than in June 2018, and 92 percent more expensive than in September 2015.

As a result, local food suppliers have been forced to shut up shop. "We cannot sell our goods under this incredible price of the dollar. All the food wholesalers on our street are closing until the exchange rate is fixed. We know that people are suffering, but we cannot risk the sale of their goods in light of this collapse as it puts us at risk in case we suffer setbacks or possibly bankruptcies," Abdul Razzaq al-Hababi, who owns a warehouse in Sanaa, told DW.

Despite the escalating humanitarian situation, fighting has continued between the warring factions and civilian deaths are mounting. In August, Saudi-led airstrikes killed 40 children at a market in the northern province of Saada, pushing the death toll of Yemenis to around 10,000 civilians. Independent watchdogs, however, say that number is likely to be much higher since figures haven't been updated in years. 

Britain and the US are now being called on to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia

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