Difficult Ramadan ahead as prices soar in Yemen

Seven-year war has pushed millions of Yemenis into poverty and basic commodities have become too expensive for many

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Aqeel bin Thabet, a university professor in the Yemeni city of Aden, used to buy one or two sheep to eat during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan but this year can only afford meat from a butcher once a week, because of soaring prices.

Others in the city like Intisar Ahmad, 50, said they will have to forgo meat and sweets and suffice with "what we can to fill our stomachs".

She said the price of 50-kilogram bags of sugar and white flour in Aden had jumped 40 per cent in less than a month.

Yemen's seven-year war has divided the country between the Houthis in the north and the internationally recognised government, now based around the southern city of Aden after being forced out of the capital, Sanaa, by the Houthis in 2014.

The war has pushed millions into hunger, while a plunging currency in the south and fuel shortages in the north have put food and other goods further beyond the reach of most Yemenis.

"Ramadan this year is different from all years, a crazy surge in prices," said Wael Al Sulwi in the capital of Sanaa, where Houthis ousted the government in 2014.

In Aden, the riyal has fallen some 20 per cent against the dollar since January. Yemen has two competing central banks so the value of the riyal differs depending on the region.

Professor Thabet, who has five children, says his monthly salary used to equal $1,200 a few years ago but is now worth $250.

"Do they want to push the country to complete hunger, which is now knocking at the door of many comfortable families," he said angrily, criticising officials and traders.

A two-month truce between the warring parties that began on Saturday aims to bring some relief by allowing fuel shipments into Houthi areas.

But the impact has yet to be felt by many.

"People are very crushed, and there are people who cannot buy the basics for the month of Ramadan, and this is a catastrophe," said Ahmad Sumay, a professor at Sanaa University.

Updated: April 05, 2022, 12:25 PM