Cost of food nearly doubles putting thousands of lives at risk in Yemen
Failing economy is as big a threat to children as bombs and bullets, warns Save the Children
SANAA, October 25 – 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 (see table in notes to editors). 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 (USD) 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 per cent 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, from USD 3,547 in 2014 to USD 1,239 in 2017—or just USD 3.39 a day (measured as Gross National Income per capita in equivalent 2011 purchasing power parity). Over the past three years poverty has dramatically increased as a result of the conflict, to a point where more than half of the population (52 per cent) live under the international poverty line, up from 30 per cent 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 haven’t been paid in months, in some cases years. Civil servants make up almost a third of the workforce, so parents simply can’t afford to feed their families any longer. The UN recently warned that 13 million people are facing starvation if the situation in Yemen doesn’t improve quickly.
Dr. Mohammed, a medic in a Save the Children-supported clinic in Saada, said:
“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. 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 aren’t really necessary and prioritise 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.”
Tamer Kirolos, Yemen Country Director for Save the Children, said:
“The economic collapse is Yemen’s silent killer; many Yemenis are struggling just to survive. 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 only can afford bread and tea and can’t 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 stabilising the economy. 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 cooperate with the UN to positively engage in the peace process without preconditions.”
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NOTES TO EDITORS:
- The cost of the bare minimum food basket needed to sustain a seven-person household in Yemen has more than doubled (142 per cent) since pre-crisis levels – from 17,366 Yemeni Riyals (YER) in 2015 to YER 42,101 now. According to the UN, the composition of a minimum survival food basket in Yemen for 7 persons per month includes 75kg wheat flour, 10kg dry weight beans (red kidney of fava beans), 8 litre vegetable oil (mostly imported), 2.5 kg sugar and 1kg iodized salt.
- The UN estimates that 17.8 million people in Yemen require emergency food assistance. World Bank data shows Yemen’s population as 27.58 million (2016). Based on this, 64.5 per cent (or two-thirds) of the population requires emergency food assistance.
- USD 1.90 buys YER 1,400 at current rates. In Sanaa, this buys one loaf of bread (YER 500), two cans of beans (YER 600) and six eggs (YER 300). A 5kg sack of rice costs YER 5,000 while a 5kg sack of flour costs between YER 2,500 and YER 3,000. Twenty litres of fuel costs YER 11,500.
- Last month Save the Children warned that with a 2018 caseload of nearly 400,000 severely malnourished children under five years in Yemen, more than 36,000 children would likely die from extreme hunger this year. For more information read full report here.
- The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is the worst in the world. Sixty per cent of the country’s population is hungry, including 8.4 million acutely food insecure people who do not know where their next meal will come from, and an additional 10 million people who could slip into pre-famine conditions by the end of year unless the conflict ends. At least 1.8 million children and 1.1 million pregnant or breastfeeding women are acutely malnourished, including 400,000 children under the age of five who are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
Average price increase of basic food commodities, pre-crisis to August 2018[
Wheat Grains 82%
Wheat Flour 80.6%
Locally processed Vegetable Oil 84%