It may be the Muslim holy month of fasting, but for many residents of Sanaa this Ramadan the political crisis that is fast driving the Arab world’s poorest country towards breakdown means there won’t be much food, if any, on the table come sun down.
“We are not fasting during the month of Ramadan in Yemen we are starving,” said Sultan al-Areeqi, a 34-year-old father of five who told GlobalPost he had worked as a laborer before the turmoil generated during the opposition attempt to unseat President Ali Abdullah Saleh forced his employer to lay off workers.
“Food prices are at least four times higher than they were in March. We have no money,” said Areeqi. “We can only eat one meal a day, and most of the time that is given to us by neighbors who are in a better financial situation."
Ramadan is a holy month in Islam during which observant Muslims fast during daylight hours, attend prayers at the mosque and give charity to the poor. But the cost of dates, the sweet fruit traditionally eaten first to break the fast, have shot up by 50 percent as has sugar to make traditional sweets.
Even simple necessities such as bread have risen 30 percent, while petrol prices have more than doubled since the opposition began its campaign in earnest in February. Water is still available in Sanaa, which has been experiencing heavy rains lately, but its price has also reportedly more than doubled.
Areeqi said that by next month his family will be homeless and forced to live on the street because he will be unable to pay his rent. He said he is one of more than one million Yemenis who have lost their jobs this year since the political crisis came to the boil.
Last year unemployment in Yemen topped 40 percent, just about the same percentage of the 23 million population which lives below the poverty line, on less than $2 a day.
“Electricity is only on two hours a day,” said Areeqi. “We can't stand it anymore. This is not the life Yemenis were hoping for.”