YEMEN: Cost of Food Nearly Doubles, Putting Thousands of Lives at Risk

Failing economy is as big a threat to children as bombs and bullets, warns Save the Children

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (Oct. 24, 2018) — A failing economy and collapsing currency can be added to the long list of factors that are killing Yemen’s children from entirely preventable causes. The cost of basic food items like flour, rice, salt, sugar and cooking oil has nearly doubled since the conflict escalated in 2015. Many parents are struggling to provide enough daily nutrition to themselves and their children. 

The situation is further compounded by a collapsing local currency, which has plummeted to its lowest value in history. One US dollar used to be worth 215 Yemeni riyals (YER) at the start of the crisis in 2015 but in October this year it was worth YER 727—a 238 percent increase. This massive inflation is increasing the cost of essential commodities such as food, water, electricity, fuel and medicines. 

Since the war escalated, the average annual income in Yemen has more than halved, falling from $3,547 in 2014 to $1,239 in 2017—or just $3.39 a day. Over the past three years, poverty has dramatically increased as a result of the conflict. More than half of the population (52 percent) live under the international poverty line, up from 30 percent in 2014. 

The collapsing currency and failing economy are greatly affecting people’s ability to feed themselves and their families. Parents are skipping meals or even starving themselves just to feed their children. 

Public sector salaries have not been paid in months and in some cases, years. Civil servants make up almost a third of the workforce, so parents simply cannot afford to feed their families any longer. The UN recently warned that 13 million people face starvation if the situation in Yemen does not improve quickly. 

“There’s no petrol for my car and if there is, sometimes the price exceeds my daily wage, so I can’t cover the cost of transport for my family,” Dr. Mohammed, a medic in a Save the Children-supported clinic in Saada, said. “I face difficulties getting the things my family needs as prices are going up and things we need are often unavailable. Most of the time, we leave out things that are not really necessary and prioritize what we need. I’m not always able to secure nutritious food […] and we often have to go without proper clothes or toys for my children.”

“The economic collapse is Yemen’s silent killer; many Yemenis are struggling just to survive,” Tamer Kirolos, Yemen Country Director for Save the Children, said. “Parents tell our staff how they’re skipping meals or are going up to two days without food to give what little they have to their children. It’s a common story. Many parents say they can only afford bread and tea and cannot remember the last time they ate meat or fish. The economic situation is getting worse, money is worth less and people aren’t getting paid.”

“Save the Children urges all parties to the conflict and the international community to work towards stabilizing the economy,” Kirolos added. “The warring parties must also allow complete and unconditional access for humanitarian and commercial goods into Yemen to help bring the cost of living down. But most importantly, all parties must agree to a cessation of hostilities, a comprehensive ceasefire and must cooperate with the UN to positively engage in the peace process without preconditions.”

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