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Ramadan Comes With a New Burden

National Yemen

Asma al-Mohattwari

“My father said this Ramadan we will not eat Sambosa and creme caramels,” Ahmed sadly said.

This is a time that Yemen suffers from a high rate of poverty of 54.5%, the unemployment rate among young people in Yemen is 60%, and 4.5 million Yemenis or 22% of the population were found to be severely food insecure and require food assistance because they are unable to find enough food to feed themselves on a daily basis. Some 5 million Yemenis are in danger of slipping into severe food insecurity. Ramadan came to add a new burden on the citizen and is considered the greatest economic challenges faced by Yemeni families each year. Families are used to spending in Ramadan double the amount they spend during other months.

This year it is difficult for most families to secure Ramadan requirements and they suffer from low per capita income, electricity cuts, and a lack of oil. According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Yemeni ports received during January until the end of last May more than two million tons of food, including 500,000 tons of wheat, 1,114 tons flour, 185,200 tons of sugar, 164,186 tons of rice, 18,136 tons of milk powder, and 42,841 tons of oil.

Yemen has received food and preparations and television shows featuring goods and food products, but purchasing is still weak because of low incomes, savings, and investment. All these causes and factors impacted negatively on the rate of overall productivity of the national economy and the deterioration of per capita income and standard of living.

Abdualrahem al-Hakemi, shopkeeper of foodstuffs, said that in the past all his customers bought Ramadan requirements weeks ago but this Ramadan they came only one day before. “Most of them bought food and delay the money to the end of the month for they didn’t have its cost and they really only take the very necessary food.”

Many supermarkets offer special prices before Ramadan and people are trying to take advantage of the tempting offers. Elham al-Emad said that not all the things that they want have special prices.“I am trying to buy the most important things. Actually this month is for worshiping and to feel the suffering of the real poor and insured people.”

Yemen is famous for its popular dishes and the food that is commonplace in every Yemeni house throughout the year, but Ramadan is distinguished from the rest of the months with its special fare. Some food is closely related to Ramadan in the hearts of Yemenis, giving fasters a special sense of the holiday they celebrate foods like Sambosas, Shafoot, Shurba, and different kinds of desserts. Some families decided to forego some dishes because they don’t have the income to make it in this holy month. Ahmed, a child, was playing in his neighborhood telling his friends “my father said this Ramadan we will not eat sambosas and creme caramel.”

Mohammed Ala, economist, said that Yemen has natural economic resources in different areas, like minerals, oil, fish and agricultural products and the cause of its poverty is the misuse of these resources by the ruling authorities. “If these resources were properly utilized and were distributed equitably to all residents, poverty would vanish and Yemen would elevate to become a wealthy country” he added.