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Water Crisis Hits Sanaa amid Cooking Gas, Fuel Crunch

Water Crisis Hits Sanaa amid Cooking Gas, Fuel Crunch

Wednesday, 13 April, 2022 - 08:30
People gather during an excursion at a dam in Sayyan near Sanaa, Yemen May 16, 2021. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

It was midnight when Ali al-Yirimi, a Yemeni private sector breadwinner living under Houthi rule, received a phone call from the neighborhood supervisor urging him to rush to save his spot in a long queue of residents waiting for their monthly share of cooking gas.

Yirimi had to wait for four long hours at the queue and was forced to ignore another call from his wife informing him that the water had run out at their home. Their family couldn’t prepare Ramadan’s Suhur meal because there wasn’t any water, but the compromise was a must because Yemenis living under Houthi militia rule can’t obtain cooking gas frequently.

If Yirimi had left his spot in the queue, his family would be left without any cooking gas.

“The issue is no longer limited to waiting in line for four hours, but extends to the inability to pay the costs of buying a gas canister and a water tank because the prices have doubled,” Yirimi told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“Nowadays, I pay double the amount of rent that I paid last year, and all the prices of goods have doubled, and my income from working in the private sector is still the same,” he complained while expressing his fears of being unable to provide for his family.

According to Yirimi, the price of a gas canister was hiked by Houthi supervisors to the equivalent of more than $12 instead of $6, and the price of a water tank increased from 6,000 Yemeni rials to 12,000 Yemeni rials.

“The water that is pumped through the Water Corporation project only comes twice a week, and as a result of the great need, you need a pump to be able to fill the tank on the roof of the house, and because there is no electricity, you have no choice but to buy water,” explained Yirimi.

Living the same struggles, Amal Abdullah, a Yemeni housewife whose husband makes a humble pay day, tells the story of how her family is forced to live in the city’s outskirts because rent is cheaper.

Abdullah tells the story of how she is forced to wake up early in the morning every day to save her spot at a location where water reserves are being donated.

Despite waking up early, Abdullah is also faced with a long queue of struggling Yemenis looking for water. She ends up waiting for hours on end.

Abdullah asserts that due to the doubled fuel rates, the price of everything has gone up, and buying a water tanker for the house has become impossible.

The crisis worsened with the advent of Islam’s holy month of Ramadan and many families were forced to resort to firewood for cooking, because they were unable to buy gas on the black market.

According to Abdullah, Houthi supervisors in Yemeni neighborhoods have a monopoly on cooking gas.

Najat, another Yemeni housewife suffering under Houthi rule, complains about how she is forced to set up fire pits for cooking her family’s Iftar fast-breaking meals. She is forced to inhale fumes despite her respiratory illness because her family can’t afford buying cooking gas after the Houthi price increase.

Najat’s husband earns a daily wage that goes into buying basic commodities, instead of buying water and cooking gas.

While Houthis continue to appropriate the salaries of thousands of public sector workers, they are pumping up living expenses for Yemenis living under their control. Before the Houthi-led insurgency, a kilowatt of electricity cost around 12 Yemeni rials, but today it costs over 500 Yemeni rials.

The 100% and over hikes have affected cooking gas, fuel, water supplies and property rent rates.

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