People shop in a supermarket in Sanaa, Yemen, before the...

People shop in a supermarket in Sanaa, Yemen, before the Eid holiday on Saturday, June 15, 2024. Credit: AP/Osamah Abdulrahman

CAIRO — More than half of households in Yemen are not eating enough due to poor economic conditions and a months-long pause in food assistance to millions of people in the rebel-held north, the United Nations food agency said Monday.

The World Food Program update said “severe food deprivation” has reached the highest it's ever seen in parts of northern Yemen including Al Jawf, Al Badya, Hajjah, Amran, and Al Hodeidah. WFP stopped food assistance to the north in December, citing limited funding and the lack of agreement with the rebel authorities on downscaling the program.

WFP also said the southern part of Yemen, controlled by the internationally recognized government, also has “historic highs” of insufficient food consumption.

Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 and has pushed the economy to the brink of collapse, affecting exports and the value of the local currency.

The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels captured much of northern Yemen including Sanaa in 2014 and forced the internationally recognized government into exile. A Saudi-led coalition intervened the following year to try to restore the government to power. Much of the south including Aden is governed by the secessionist Southern Transitional Council, a United Arab Emirates-backed group that is an ally of the internationally recognized government.

Yemen is experiencing an economic divide fueled by the rivalry between the Houthi and the STC governments, who have established separate and independent central banks and different versions of the Yemeni currency, the riyal.

As of Monday, the Yemeni riyal had depreciated in Aden to an all-time low of YER 1,841 to the U.S. dollar, but stayed stable in Sanaa at YER 530 to the U.S. dollar, according to the Yemen Press Agency. Economists have attributed the significant devaluation in currency in STC-controlled areas to low foreign currency reserves and a decline in crude oil export revenue.

That affects people's purchasing power. In May, essential food items were available in markets across Yemen but the most vulnerable communities could not afford them, WFP said, noting price hikes in sugar, vegetable oil, wheat flour, and red beans.

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