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 (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.”
For interviews, call Alex Sampson on 0429 943 027