EDITOR’S NOTE: Mission Network News received the following report from a partner of International Christian Response (ICR).
Yemen (MNN/ICR) — Hunger is getting worse in Yemen, where 16 million people were already “marching towards starvation” according to the World Food Program (WFP). Today, some 20.7 million Yemenis need immediate help, the United Nations reports.
By September 2021, food prices had risen by as much as 60 percent from the start of the year. This was largely precipitated by the Yemeni rial’s plunge of nearly 40 percent over the same period in southern areas under the control of the Internationally Recognized Government (IRG).
The ever-rising prices have made it substantially harder for ordinary Yemenis to afford their basic needs, as an estimated 80 percent of the total population was already living below the poverty line due to the impact of nearly seven years of war and Covid-19.
By September 30th, Yemen’s third wave of Covid-19 had increased the total number of confirmed cases in the south to 9,000, with over 1,700 deaths since the start of the pandemic. These figures greatly underestimate the actual spread, given the lack of testing capacity across the country as well as the failure of the De Facto Authorities (DFA) in Yemen’s north to report any cases at all.
While Yemen is expected to receive 14 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines through the COVAX global vaccine-sharing scheme, so far the doses delivered have only been sufficient to fully vaccinate just over 500,000 Yemenis. To date, only 0.1 percent of Yemen’s population has been fully vaccinated.
According to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), disinformation, fear of detention, and lack of knowledge on the presence of isolation centers also continue to deter Yemenis from seeking timely treatment for the disease. People fear that they will receive lethal injections, or even be detained against their will if they visit a Covid-19 isolation center.
Meanwhile, many patients and caretakers insist on leaving the hospital early, against medical advice, because they worry the longer they stay, the higher the chances that they may be stigmatized by relatives and friends. An estimated 15 percent of Yemen’s functioning health system has been repurposed for the Covid-19 response, reducing overall health coverage by a further 20 to 30 percent.
Half of the country’s hospitals were already out of service prior to the pandemic, leaving the population vulnerable to endemic diseases including cholera, polio, diphtheria, and dengue fever. Now, at least one child dies every 10 minutes because of preventable diseases.
Frustration and despair over the ever-deepening crisis sparked protests across Yemen’s south beginning in mid-September. By October the unrest had turned deadly, as street battles broke out in Aden’s Crater neighborhood. On October 10, at least six people were killed in a car bombing in Aden, targeting Aden Governor Ahmed Lamlas and Environment Minister Salem al Socotri. Both officials survived the blast.
This new spate of violence in the south emerged in addition to over 50 frontlines currently active across the country, which have forcibly displaced over 67,000 individuals in 2021 alone. However, it is the rising prices, lost livelihoods, and lack of economic opportunity – not the ongoing battles – that continue to deepen the desperation of most Yemeni households as they continue to exhaust more severe coping strategies in the face of the rial’s intractable plunge.
“The conflict’s military aspects are limited to specific fronts in the country,” said Rafat Al-Akhali, convener of the Council on State Fragility at Oxford’s International Growth Center. “But economic conflict is impacting every single person in the country and is driving millions of Yemenis to the edge of famine.”
Within this shattered economy, God’s blessing has been evident through an Economic Development program granting small business loans.
A father of five received the program’s first loan in late 2020. He shared the following in a recent update:
“I’ve been waking up early to run the business and I’ve met many businessmen, and most importantly I have a good customer base. Now that things are going smoothly, the daily work is manageable. With the income from the project, I’ve been able to give my children daily spending money when they go to school and provide for my household’s needs. This is a great blessing. I’ve been paying back the loan and praise God, I will be able to pay off the remaining amount over the next four months. Once I’ve paid it off, I will ask for another loan so that I can continue to grow the business.”
Header image depicts a school in Yemen’s Taiz city badly damaged as a result of the fighting. (Photo, caption courtesy of Felton Davis/Flickr/CC2.0)