Yemen Key Message Update: Temporary relief in fuel shortages expected after four ships are permitted to enter Al Hudaydah port, March 2021


Key Messages

In Yemen, protracted conflict has been the main driver of food insecurity for more than six years. In the coming months, ongoing conflict along the front lines — including recently intensified conflict in Marib — is likely to continue causing displacement and eroding livelihoods. Given this and the worsening macroeconomic situation, high humanitarian assistance needs and widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to continue at the governorate level, with pockets of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes likely. If households are displaced to areas where assistance cannot reach, worse outcomes are possible. Although not the most likely scenario, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be possible if food supply is cut off for a prolonged period of time.

The Yemeni riyal has generally continued to depreciate against the US dollar in Aden and other GoY-controlled areas in February and the first half of March according to key informants. In Sana’a, the exchange rate has generally remained stable. According to key informants, food prices increased slightly across much of the country in February and, in the coming months, prices of basic food and non-food commodities are expected to continue increasing due to inflation and the beginning of Ramadan (April 13 – May 12). However, increased zakat (gifts) during Ramadan is expected to increase levels of remittances and gifts of food, improving access to food and income among poor households and allowing many to temporarily meet their basic needs. Increased remittance levels will also increase foreign currency availability, supporting some currency stability and trade financing.

Ongoing severe fuel shortages in northern areas have continued to raise costs of livelihood activities, private sector activities, and the humanitarian response in Yemen. In late March, the GoY announced that four fuel ships would be allowed to enter the port of Al Hudaydah. This is expected to increase supply of fuel at official prices, providing some temporary relief for around one to two months. However, unless additional ships are permitted to enter the port, fuel shortages would be expected to resume. This would continue to put upward pressure on food prices and would threaten industrial activity (due to increased transportation and processing costs), including the continuity of milling wheat for food distributions and electricity provision (through generators) for hospitals and water treatment plants.

Seasonally, March marks the beginning of harvesting of winter cereals in the northern highlands and the beginning of land preparation and planting for spring cereal cultivation in higher elevation areas more broadly. In the coming months, below-average rainfall forecast for the first rainy season and high prices of fuel and agriculture inputs will likely contribute to reduced area cultivated under spring cereals among small-scale farmers as they consider their ability to irrigate crops. As a result of above-average costs of fuel and agricultural inputs and below-average production levels due to reduced area planted, small-scale farmers are expected to realize below-average levels of food and income from spring crop production.

According to Yemen’s Supreme National Emergency Committee for Coronavirus, the number of COVID-19 cases reported daily has been generally increasing since mid-February, peaking at 140 cases reported on March 21. As of March 29, a total 4,115 cumulative cases had been confirmed since the start of the pandemic. In response to the increase in cases, the government announced the resumption of control measures in southern areas, including a partial curfew, reduced hours for marketing and social gatherings, and closure of schools and universities. However, as of late March, enforcement has been limited and is likely to remain so unless the scale of the outbreak continues to worsen. Should enforcement of control measures increase — which would be expected to impact Aden and other urban areas — reduced small-business activity would likely decrease income-earning for many urban households (especially shopkeepers and restaurant/business owners) during Ramadan, which is usually a time of seasonally high business activity and income. Meanwhile, the spread of COVID-19 will likely increase health expenses for affected households, constraining ability to meet all food and essential non-food needs.