Amid Aden’s salary crisis, families struggle with power cuts and fuel shortage

Rua’a Alameri
Rua’a Alameri - Al Arabiya English
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Like many other students across Yemen, Nisma Alozebi is getting ready for her exams. Yet in addition to the pressure to obtain a civil engineering degree, the 22-year-old is struggling to cope up with the daily struggle of continuous power cuts in the port city Aden.

“If you think college is hard, try spending your whole undergraduate studying like this,” Alozebi’s Twitter reads alongside a picture of her books in a dark room with a small light to help her read.

Alozebi told Al Arabiya English that lack of electricity leaves her no option but to study during the day. She explained that power cuts are not a new problem in the war-torn country. However due to the recent gas shortage and rising inflation, families are unable to fuel their generators which they rely on for electricity.

The Global Petrol Prices estimates the current price of regular gasoline in Yemen at $0.75 per liter, compared to $0.70 in 2015 as reported by the British charity Oxfam, while the price was at $0.58 pre-crisis. Power shortages have also hit water supplies, hospitals and factories in the country. Car owners often queue up for days to get their fill while many use firewood due to scarcity of gas cylinders.

Local activist, Naji al-Khaladi, says the city is suffering because of power cuts. According to him, before the ongoing crisis began, residents in Aden used to get an average of 3-4 hours of electricity a day. But in recent times, power cuts have lasted even more than 24 hours at a stretch.

Khaladi said that finding fuel have been a struggle during the last three months. With the price almost doubled compared to pre-war prices, it has been extremely difficult for people to afford, especially for retirees and government staff who have not received salaries for five months.

Earlier this week, residents in Aden took to the streets to protest against power cuts and shortage of fuel besides non-payment of salaries.

Data collected by the World Economic Forum in 2015 showed that the general inflation rate in Yemen is at 30 percent, ranking at 135 out of 137 countries, while at the bottom for electricity.

Since the turmoil began in the country, thousands of workers have been staging strikes and sit-ins despite the conflict that has so far killed more than 10,000 people since September 2014, amid a severe economic and humanitarian crisis.

The United Nations’ Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, said in a statement on Wednesday that the conflict has led to rising food and fuel prices as well as a plummeting of purchasing power considering “non-payment of salaries in the public sector for over six months.”

Apart from the struggle of a civil engineering student trying to study in difficult conditions, Alozebi and her family are also among the many who are trying to make ends meet.

With the inflation of prices caused by the conflict, her family of six has been managing with the help of her late mother’s monthly installments from the insurance company. However, for the past three months, the payments stopped.

Alozebi explained that the family has been living on her father’s salary which is not enough, stating that it is “too much” of a struggle.

However, despite Alozebi’s struggles, she is still among those counting themselves to be lucky and alive. Most of Yemen’s 25 million population is understandably struggling to survive.

According to World Health Organization, 80 percent of the population is in need of aid, while prior to the war, over 50 percent of the population lived in poverty.

The government’s decision in September last year to transfer the central bank from Sanaa to Aden came after President Manour Hadi said the Houthis were embezzling foreign reserves. However, even after the move, the central bank was unable to facilitate the payment of late salaries, according to residents.

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