The cost of war on Sa’ada’s economy [Archives:2008/1169/Business & Economy]

July 3 2008

By: YemenTimes Staff
The ongoing confrontations in northern Yemen has had its toll on different aspects of life. Now in its 5th Month, the 5th Sa'ada war has proven to be the most vicious conflict in this part of the country during the last century, with devastating economic and human consequences.

Sa'ada governorate was known to produce some of the best agricultural crops for the country, including pomegranates, grapes, and apples, for sale in the domestic market as well as export for good margins, however, neither the local market or the international market received any of the produce for this year, due to the rebellious Al-Houthi group which destabilized the northern parts of the country.

For the last five months, thousand of workers were out of job due to the inability to work in agriculture during the time of war, and in consequence thousands of families lost their only source of income, thereby living in starvation and economizing on whatever little they might have.

In spite of the censorship and media blackout, YemenTimes had the unique opportunity of getting a small glimpse of the economic realities of the people of Sa'ada during the last few months. In the city of Sa'ada, most shop owners and businessmen close their shops and hide their inventory in order to keep it for their families or to avoid having army personnel steal it, others open for a few hours and sell the products at 200-300% of their regular price, as the supply of foodstuff and other products into the governorate has completely stopped, with the exception of a few smugglers who supply basic items such as wheat, cooking oil, and selected medications, usually brought in from other governorates or stolen from camps or humanitarian assistance trucks. There is no business in Sa'ada city's abandoned markets, there are only three shops in the whole town where you can buy a cookie – which is considered a luxury, two of these are next door to the governor's office.

The realities in rural areas are by far worse, where the wrath of war has destroyed any signs of livelihood, according to many displaced persons who are living in camps in Sa'ada city. They say that they were systemically starved away, with the supply of water, fuel, and electricity stopping, they had to leave as they can't live without water, only to hear from other displaced persons who followed them to the camps that their houses were destroyed, and their farms burnt out by the military who are seeking the rebels.

There is no economic activity whatsoever in the war zone of Sa'ada, agriculture has been destroyed, and it will take at least a few years for it to recover. Houses and businesses have been destroyed, lives ruined, and for the current generation, only a reminder of what was will stay in their minds.