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Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat
Aden - Waddah Aljaleel

1.65 Mn Older People at Risk of Starvation in Yemen

A Yemeni woman sells food for Ramadan iftar meals in Sanaa (EPA)

Umm Yusuf, 60, chose to sell homemade bread in Sanaa to make some money, and people in the south of Sanaa used to buy bread from her at the commercial center.

However, a few days ago, she suddenly disappeared. Ahmed, in his 30s, asked about her and found out that members of the municipality office run by the Houthis confiscated her goods for two consecutive days, preventing her from selling.

According to Ahmed, Umm Yusuf lives with her daughter, trying to provide her with the necessities of life and keep her in school. However, the Houthi practices make it difficult for her and people like her.

Umm Yusuf’s case is not rare or exceptional, as older people in Yemen face tragic situations.

An international organization researched the impact of the crisis and war in Yemen on older people as part of a study that included ten countries, revealing that 1.65 million are at risk of starvation.

HelpAge International, a global network of organizations promoting the right of all older people to lead dignified, healthy, and secure lives, confirmed that the elderly in Yemen are particularly affected by the high prices of basic foodstuffs, and most have had to reduce their food purchases, limit their daily food intake and reduce the size of their meals.

The study is part of a project that looks at the impact of the global food, fuel, and financial crisis in ten countries, and Yemen is the seventh country in the series.

It indicated that many older women also limit their food intake so that their children and grandchildren can eat more. They fast one day and the next day eat only one meal on average.

Some older women are now begging for money on the streets as they cannot afford to buy food.

The report noted that older people are choosing to forego their visits to the health clinic due to skyrocketing fuel costs and a corresponding increase in transport costs. They are resorting to buying low-cost, poor-quality medicines, and some are also going into debt.

Older people are choosing to sell their household items like furniture and valuables, such as jewelry, to earn some income to fulfill their basic needs. However, they accumulate debt to pay for groceries or medical necessities, with no means to repay their loans.

The study urged the Yemeni government to follow “strategies to mitigate hardships faced by older people” and called on it to take urgent action to alleviate the suffering of older people.

It urged national and international aid programs to include older people amongst the most vulnerable groups, adding that older people’s access to food and medicine must be prioritized.

The report asserted that the government must “establish community partnerships and provide community guidance to improve the lives of older people.”

The war in Yemen expanded the unemployment and the labor market gap.

Older people and children join the labor force, and according to economists, they usually accept low wages and complex working conditions.

According to government statistics, more than 80 percent of the Yemeni poor live in the countryside and depend on agriculture, and more than half of these are older people who are associated with agriculture, unlike young people who search for education and jobs.

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