Yemen’s warring factions have laid down their weapons for nearly eight weeks now, ever since a UN-brokered ceasefire was agreed on Saturday 2nd April 2022. The Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition have both observed the two-month truce (ending 2 June 2022), which has become a glimmer of hope in Yemen’s brutal and long conflict.
It is a war which has killed 377,000 Yemenis (60 per cent of which are indirect and caused by issues associated with conflict - lack of access to food, water, and healthcare) and displaced four million internally, triggering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.
When the war first broke out in 2015, it plunged what was already the Arab world’s poorest country into years of crisis, with failing infrastructure and services.
An estimated 23.4 million people — about three in four people in Yemen — need humanitarian assistance, and 17.4 million people face crisis levels of food insecurity. According to the OCHA, 2.2 million children are acutely malnourished across Yemen.
With the war in Ukraine pushing food and fuel prices to new highs around the world, the situation in Yemen is getting even worse. The desert-based country is almost entirely dependent on food imports, with 31% of its wheat coming from Ukraine. Prices in Yemen are now seven times higher than they were in 2015.
This spiralling cost of living has been intensified by a national currency which has split in two and is experiencing runaway inflation. The Yemeni rial has different values in the north and south of the country. In July 2021, the exchange rate in Aden - in the south of the country - was 1,000 rials to the dollar, while in the northern area around Sanaa it was around 600. Those living in the south of Yemen speak of facing an “economic war”.
“They are bleeding in the north – there, they are suffering from airstrikes,” explained a man from Sanaa who now spends most of his time in the south. “What is happening in the south is a different war – it is a war of economy. A soft war - a war of food and bread.”
While there is cautious optimism about this current ceasefire, humanitarian groups say that the lack of international attention and funding for Yemen is deeply troubling.
But behind the grim statistics - and despite nearly a decade of limited access to healthcare, education, food, and water - life goes on. Generations of Yemenis are trying to maintain their hope, dignity, and traditions amid an increasingly dire situation.
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