Electricity and Oil Crisis Exacerbate Suffering of Yemenis in Ramadan

By Tamjid Alkohali

“In the past, I used to wait for Ramadan impatiently. Unfortunately, this year I am waiting for the end of Ramadan impatiently,”  said Ahmed Al- Sabri while his eyes filled with tiredness.

More than any other year, Yemenis are finding this Ramadan to be a difficult time, especially with the security and economic crises. According to the latest statistics of the United Nations, the number of people who need to humanitarian aid rose to 14 million this Ramadan.

The suffering of people is exacerbated by repeated electricity cuts around the country as well as the crisis of oil derivatives, which has appeared since almost five months.

Ahmed Al-Sabri the owner of a tailoring shop and other traders and shop owners can’t express their suffering enough. They have been exposed to big losses in the best period for business in the year due to the electricity crisis and the lack of oil.

“I was paying 20 YR (93 $) for a barrel of diesel. Today with the crisis of oil derivatives, I am forced to buy the diesel from the black market where one barrel of diesel cost me about 70 YR (326 $),” said Al-Sabri.

Al-Sabri and other shop owners can’t work without electricity. They must provide the oil to operate the electrical generators because they have obligations to their customers.

“If I don’t buy the oil from the black market with a multiplier price, I have to wait in the queue long hours or sometime all the day in order to get not more than one liter of oil and this is wasting time,” added Al-Sabri.

Tawfiq Al-Najjar, a grocery shop owner, said that when the electricity crisis began he bought a generator to resolve the problem because he needed the electricity to chill some food in his store. However, now he is facing a new problem: the oil crisis!

“The situation in the country became worse than before. The government should find a solution quickly for all these crises, especially the electricity crisis, because the electricity is the main source to create an attractive investment environment for business growth and investments,” said Al-Najjar.

Al-Najjar emphasized that Ramadan for him is the best month to get a lot of profits but in this Ramadan his losses were high.

The electricity cuts didn’t only effect traders, it also muddied the atmosphere of Ramadan, which is considered the best time of the year.

Muna, a house wife, said that before Ramadan was the most interesting month in the year, but today it is boring and a burden for most families.

According to her, from the first day of Ramadan, they have Iftar among the light of candles. The hours of electricity cuts exceed 15 hours and her husband’s income doesn’t allow them to buy a generator, which deprive sher and his family from watching their favorite programs as they used to do in the past.

 “Even shopping is a problem. Before, it was a fun time for me and my children every Ramadan. The generators that spread in front of each shop muddied the nice ambiance of shopping because of their noisy voice and their smoke that pollutes the air,” she added.

The electricity crisis did not show mercy for people who live in coastal areas at temperatures exceeding 40. They can’t use the air conditioners because of the electricity crisis and the oil crisis.

Osama, 22, from Hudaydah, described life in Hudaydah as a very hot oven where they cannot even get a drop of cold water.

Yemen has suffered from electricity cuts for years as a result of frequent attacks on electricity transmission lines, which is done by the vandals in the country.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, there were about 487 attacks on Power lines, oil pipelines, and telecommunications networks in 2013.

These attacks caused the loss of about 52 billion YR (10.4 $) during the period from 2011 – 2013.

The attacks on the electricity transmission lines increased to 30 attacks and the loss of $300 million until May of this year.

The Yemeni security services are unable to protect the electricity pylons or arrest the attackers, but they publish the names of vandals in the official media and request the people to cooperate with them to catch the vandals.