Yemen: A Three-Pronged Crisis

by Aishanya Gupta

Yemen, a small Arab country, has simultaneously been inflicted with an economic, humanitarian, and social crisis, worse than what any nation has experienced in 100 years.

If the magnanimity of this triple edged catastrophe were to be simplified to understand the implications of the complexities, then assume

Yemen was a group of 100 people:

  • 74 would need humanitarian assistance

  • 57 would have no access to clean water or sanitation

  • 60 would be food insecure and at risk of famine

  • 53 would have no access to health services

These appalling circumstances are enough to make one wonder how it all started. What does the present scenario entail regionally and globally? Most importantly, will Yemen ever recover?

A Conflicted State

Since the 20th century, Yemen has been subjected to widespread atrocities committed by communal parties with the sole purpose of gaining political power.

The most recent event that sent shockwaves through the country was the Arab Spring in which the Houthi rebellion rose and forced the longtime authoritarian President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, in 2011.

Mr. Hadi’s inability to cope with the country’s issues was taken advantage of. Hadi’s state control was relinquished and transferred to a cluster of parties led by the Houthis.

Widespread disillusion and pretense propaganda sowed seeds of bitterness for the party in power inside the minds of many Yemenis; this led to the engagement of the broad populous in a wide-scale civil war.

Man-made Repercussions

An underdeveloped free-market economy with strict state control, Yemen relies heavily on foreign oil companies that have production-sharing agreements with the country. Exports of coffee and salted fish contribute to some extent as well.

Oil, accounting for 80% of the country’s wealth, has undergone a blockade brought on by the Hadi Government due to the fear of it being passed into the wrong hands.

“The overwhelming majority of [the Houthi movement] impede or delay delivery of aid and many violate humanitarian principles.”

- U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande

These disruptions essentially eliminated Yemen exports, weakened the national currency, the Yemeni Rial, and limited food and fuel imports.

A clearer understanding of the economic situation can be obtained from can be from the following data:

  • The annual per capita income for a Yemeni stands at $2213. Comparatively, a mine worker in any other part of the world is still able to manage to scrape together an annual income of more than $3000.

  • An elemental staple in our everyday life, bread, costs approximately $70 in a city of Yemen in comparison to what costs at most $2. Since the war, the price of bread has risen more than 60%. It is imperative to think of how more than 125,000 families have no means to an even rudimentary lifestyle, at best.

  • The World Bank reported Yemen’s economy has contracted by 50% since 2015.

  • The Growth Rate stands at a fatalistic -2.7%.

  • The steep decline of the private sector and nonpayment of salaries has left people with no means to purchase anything.

"The issue is not that there isn't stuff inside the country. The issue is that people are not able to buy it because there is no income. People were initially cutting back on daily meals, but then resorted to begging and eating grass and leaves".

-Hisham al-Omeisy, a prominent Yemeni analyst

Global Outreach

"It’s astounding that today, the international community can sit on its hands and, in fact, allow and facilitate this famine."

-Oxfam's Richard Stanforth

There is a complete absence of resources on either side of the state borders.

The United Nations’ desperate plea to raise a sum of $2.4 billion on an online platform fell through due to which serious setbacks have been experienced in 30 of the 41 life-sustaining programs operational by the international organization in the country.

Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus, Mercy Corps, UNICEF, and the WHO have been forced to dilute their presence.

Countries like U.K., Saudi Arabia, and U.S.A continue to provide armaments to the Government in order to overcome the rebellion but that does not help the case of 12 million children who hang on to the hopes of stability and the comfort of a real home.

Is an overall turnaround possible?

An anonymous analyst said that the Government itself does not have a solution for the crisis at hand. They have a ‘lack of control over the ground.’ Corruption is so deeply rooted in the country that Yemen was announced as the 5th most corrupt country according to Transparency International's Corruptions Perceptions Index. 

This corruption has made the people in power believe that there is no use competing for patronage and contract when they are easily able to profit from the war economy.

As seen on the map above, if the urgently needed flow of aid into Yemen starts to increase, the Houthis and their allies stand to benefit.

All in all, only a multi-layered strategy that corresponds to the complexity of the conflict and dynamics of the economy can bring about a chance at breaking the cycle of crisis and elevate the suffering ones.


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