Millions of Yemenis face hunger during Ramadan

At least 17 million people suffer food shortages in what the UN calls the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

While Muslims worldwide celebrate Ramadan with special meals and tasty treats, millions of Yemenis are suffering from an acute lack of food as the country’s two-year war rages on.

According to aid agencies, 17 million people do not have enough to eat, in what the UN calls the “largest humanitarian crisis in the world”.

Typically, people shop throughout Ramadan, but Yemeni storekeepers have nothing to celebrate.

“Sales are the lowest from years past. Every year is worse than before,” Yahya Hubar, a shopkeeper in Hodeidah, a coastal city in western Yemen, told Al Jazeera.

More than two million children are acutely malnourished in Yemen, where a child under five dies every 10 minutes of preventable diseases, according a report by UNICEF published in December.

READ MORE: A cry for help – Millions facing famine in Yemen

In addition, the country is facing a cholera outbreak, which so far has infected more than 29,000 people. 

As many are scrambling to get their hands on food necessities, no longer are people talking about the special foods prepared and enjoyed during the festive Ramadan month.

“Our situation is very hard. We haven’t been paid for several months. Essential needs are hard to get and the prices are high. We’re looking at goods we can’t buy,” Nabil Ibrahim, another Hodeidah resident, told Al Jazeera.

‘Unprecedented tragedy’

This is the third Ramadan Yemen faces in a state of war. A majority of the population has only limited access to food and medicine.

The UN needs $2.1bn to provide aid to Yemen. So far, only half the amount has been raised to help address what is calls a “tragedy of unprecedented proportion”.

“People from Hodeidah are living in a tragic situation. Ramadan arrives as people are suffering greatly from unpaid salaries, no electricity, no water with the hot weather and the blockade due to the ongoing war in Yemen,” Sadeq Al Saeedi, a charity worker, told Al Jazeera.

Aid agencies say some 17 million people do not have enough to eat [Al Jazeera]
Aid agencies say some 17 million people do not have enough to eat [Al Jazeera]

Yemen was already one of the poorest countries in the region.

The ongoing conflict between Houthi fighters and an Arab coalition has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people and pushed the country to a brink of famine, according to the UN.

It has also taken a toll on the country’s health facilities. A number of hospitals and clinics have been bombed, while others have had to close their doors because of the fighting.

Earlier this month, a state of emergency was declared in Yemen’s opposition-held capital, Sanaa, after the cholera outbreak killed scores of people.