In Yemen, Renewed Conflict and Rising Hunger Stalk a Lean Ramadan

In the years before war and hunger upended daily life in Yemen, Mohammed Abdullah Yousef used to sit down after a long day of fasting during Ramadan to a rich spread of food. His family would dine on meat, falafel, beans, savory fried pastries and occasionally store-bought crème caramel.

This year, the Islamic holy month looks different for Mr. Yousef, 52, a social studies teacher in the coastal city of Al Mukalla. He, his wife and their five children break their fast with bread, soup and vegetables. Earning the equivalent of $66 a month, he frets that his salary sometimes slips from his hands in less than two weeks, much of it to pay grocery bills.

“I’m fighting to make ends meet,” Mr. Yousef said in an interview, describing how even before Ramadan he had begun skipping meals to stretch his meager paychecks, yet could barely afford bus fare to his job at a primary school.

A decade ago, his salary covered his family’s needs and more. But conflict, poverty and hunger have overtaken much of Yemen. As rapid inflation eats away at their spending power, middle-class Yemenis like Mr. Yousef have found themselves sliding into economic collapse.

Muslims abstain from food and water between dawn and sunset in observance of Ramadan, which is meant to be a time of worship, celebratory gatherings and nightly feasts. But it has been a desperate occasion this year for many across Yemen. The country is home to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, precipitated by a war that began 2014, which experts warn may be drifting toward a deeper disaster.

Unloading food aid in Sana, Yemen’s capital. More than 18.2 million people out of the population of 35 million now require humanitarian assistance.Credit…Yahya Arhab/EPA, via Shutterstock
Back to top button