Sanaa is closed for business

Sanaa is closed for business
Renewed violence between Houthi and government forces has shut the capital and sent Yemen spinning nearer to economic meltdown, with no end in sight.
2 min read
20 January, 2015
Many of Sanaa's businesses have closed as militants and soldiers clash [AFP]

In the empty streets of Sanaa, military convoys rumble past shuttered shops and cafes, as residents do their best to avoid the latest round of bloodshed between Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen's central government.

Trade and services have ground to a halt in the capital, turning it into a ghost town which echoes only with cracks of gunfire. Many government offices, businesses and banks have closed their doors.

The Houthi fighters began the latest round of violence, launching an attack on presidential forces on Monday after the group was accused of abducting Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, the director of office of the president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

In retaliation for his abduction, energy companies operating in Mubarak's home governorate of Shabwah cut supplies to the capital - compounding the city's misery as petrol stations ran dry and public transport stopped running.

Sanaa in lockdown

     Yemen has suffered from falling living standards as militant groups continue to clash.

Fighting and turmoil are now the norm in Yemen. Since the Arab Spring toppling of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012, the country has faced a rebellion by the Houthis, attacks by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and clashes with non-affiliated tribes. 

The instability has had a devastating effect on living standards. Last year it was reported that 50 percent of Yemenis were in need of humanitarian assistance.

Empty streets

Yemeni economist Ali al-Shumeiri told al-Araby al-Jadeed that instability destroys any chance of recovery.

Read about the dangers of Yemen breaking apart here.

Mohammad bin Mohammad Salah, the deputy director of Sanaa's chamber of commerce, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that goods were piling up at Sanaa's al-Hadida port as merchants refused to collect it.

Economic analysts have warned of an impending food crisis if the clashes continue.

The poorest are among the hardest hit in Sanaa – labourers, vendors and tradesmen. Ali al-Mahweiti, who sells food in the capital, said: "The events forced us to stay at home. We are threatened to lose our livelihoods, and we are concerned under this difficult economic and security situation."

Should the country grind to a complete halt, the government says its strategic reserves of food will last until April. That optimism is not shared by analysts. They say grain stocks will not last one month based on current consumption and imports. Yemen imports $900m of wheat each year.

Meanwhile the lights go out in Sanaa for 12 hours a day.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. 

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.