Global food, energy prices soaring, Yemen delves deeper into crisis
The impact of the war in Ukraine and Western sanctions on Russia will affect Yemenis more than others, because of the rise in energy and food prices, which Yemen completely imports.
Yemen is one of the countries that have suffered the most under the economic and humanitarian impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war, and the Western sanctions that set fire to international markets.
This destabilization has led to Yemenis losing what relative benefits they stood to gain from the UN-sponsored humanitarian truce, announced on April 2.
Despite the limited gains Yemen was able to read as a result of the truce, as in the limited entry of oil products through the Al-Hudaydah port, following years of seizure and piracy practiced by the aggression, the war in Ukraine caused oil prices to soar to levels not seen in decades, causing oil prices in Yemen, under the truce, to reach their pre-truce levels (the same levels seen during the blockade).
Yemen, which for years has been experiencing what the UN has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis, dating back seven years to when the aggression against it first started, is now suffering even more as a result of the war in Ukraine and Western sanctions on Russia, which coincided with renewed lockdowns in China because of a resurgence of the Coronavirus; these lockdowns have caused a spike in maritime shipping costs, sometimes reaching more than 1000%.
Yemen heavily relies on imports to cover over 80% of its needs in food, medicine, and energy, meaning that all of the aforementioned crises will impact Yemeni lives, and may possibly necessitate an exceptional intervention by the UN. But this may also not happen, because the UN has not received in 2022 (before the war in Ukraine) but 30% of the funding it requested from donors to support its plans in Yemen.
In the donor conference this past March, donors pledged a mere $1.3 billion, which the UN's Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described as "disappointing". Moreso, the UN, and after every donor conference over the past years, had announced that donors are not abiding by their pledges, meaning that the announced $1.3 billion are also not a sure thing.
Yemen truce aligns with US interests
The truth, as seen by many, is that the truce in Yemen, although it lessened the suffering of Yemenis in terms of acquiring some fuel and some flights being allowed from Sanaa airport after a six-year hiatus, was actually timed to primarily serve US interests.
Those that agree with this view say that its timing, on April 2, happened simultaneously with a spike in global oil prices brought on by the war in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russia. The rise in oil prices in the US, which had been exercising pressure on oil-exporting countries (namely KSA) in order to increase production to stabilize oil prices, caused Washington to fear an escalation in Yemeni strikes against the Saudi oil industry, the last of which dealt a major blow to the oil industry in Jeddah in March.
A continuation of Yemeni strikes would have caused a global crisis and a historic increase in oil prices. This is why Washington led to effort to call for a truce in Yemen that would help Saudi Arabia and the UAE avoid additional Yemeni strikes, especially since Sanaa had proved that it can halve Saudi Arabia's oil production of 10 milllion bpd, like the September 14, 2019 strike.
Bearing testament to this is the fact that when the pandemic hit in 2020, causing oil prices to fall to historic lows was the harshest period of the US-supported aggression against Yemen, and it prevented the country from making use of the fall of oil prices. Yemenis, at that time, were buying oil, with great difficulty, and at steep prices, whereas others were getting it at sub-zero prices.
The US administration did not hide its involvement in arriving to a truce, as it declared this recently on a number of occasions, including a White House statement on a prospective visit to Saudi Arabia by Biden, next month, which pointed out that it was US-Saudi efforts that led to a truce in Yemen.
Between Sanaa and Aden
The impact of the war on Ukraine, the sanctions imposed on Russia, and China's lockdowns, will affect Yemenis more so than others, because of the surge in energy and food prices, both of which Yemen imports, not to mention other important commodities, such as wheat, which Yemen imported from Russia and Ukraine. However, the rise in global oil prices is perhaps the greater concern, or perhaps the nightmare of Yemen, because it is linked to all facets of life, beginning with the price of its procurement and the rise of the costs of transportation, electricity, etc...
Though it is true that the Sanaa government is still selling oil products at prices far less than many "more advanced" countries, but the Yemeni people are living under the economic burden of war and the blockade, which is further exacerbated by the decision made by the Aden government to cut off payrolls ever since the decision was made to transfer central bank jobs in September 2016.
Yemen thus had to contend as well with securing the necessary funds for food and energy, more so than countries that sell oil products at higher prices. Things could have been less bad were it not for the strange discrepancy, wherein Sanaa controls regions where 80% of the Yemeni people live, which necessitates that it provides 80% of the articles of government spending. But in reality, the Aden government, which is supported by the aggression, has 20% of the Yemeni people in its territories but is keeping 80% of government income, including income from oil and cooking gas.
The Aden government, for example, admitted in 2021 that its income from oil for that year amounted to $1.4 billion (840 billion Yemeni Rials), according to a Reuters report released in May. Moreover, it also secured 17 billion Rials per month from gas income, which the Yemeni people received nothing from.
Meanwhile, the Sanaa government continues to pay half-wages from the minuscule income it secure from the Al-Hudaydah port, which has been completely blockaded by the Saudi-led coalition for extended periods of time in the past few years.
Coalition weaponizing economy against Yemen
If the status quo does not change, such as an end to the war in Ukraine, a backpedaling of Western sanctions on Moscow, or the Coronavirus' impact on China being mitigated, then Yemen would have to find some way to face the murderous effect of these conditions, which most Yemenis will not be able to face.
Surely, Yemenis have suffered enough, and such conditions call for a UN decision that would force the coalition-allied government to distribute oil and gas income (not to mention other sources of income) in order to lessen the people's suffering, and pay government employees, who have not received their paychecks in close to six years, as part of the economic pressure being piled onto them in the war.
A UN team of experts had said in a 2017 report that in order to achieve goals that the military war machine could not, the coalition is using the economy as a tool of war in Yemen.
The Yemen truce, which the UN announced on April 2, was not, despite its importance, a true change in the status quo. Yemen is currently facing the world's worst humanitarian crisis, and the truce has done nothing to mitigate the effect of the war in Ukraine, the sanctions on Russia, and the lockdowns in China.
In short, this truce was summarized in the entry of nine oil tankers a month through the Al-Hudaydah port, being seized for several days, and two flights a week through the Sanaa airport, with the aggression only allowing close to 30-40% of the number of agreed-upon flights.
The situation in Yemen will not be drastically improved as a result of the truce.