By Fuad Rajeh
SANAA, June 28 (Xinhua) -- Sharaf Hamoud Ba'alawi, a 30-year fruit and vegetable seller, received the holy fasting month of Ramadan this year with pessimism due to looming impact of a range of persistent crises despite progress in transition in Yemen. "Low demand of our products by the people is a key problem facing us this year," he said. "In addition, some products are not available at the markets. I went to farmers and huge markets to buy fruits for Ramadan but key products were not found," he said. "When I asked why, farmers said diesel shortages were to blame."
Yemen is the poorest country in the region and, according to the World Food Program, half of its people, around 12 million, are facing hunger.
The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund's ( UNICEF) Social Protection Monitoring Survey launched a few days ago in Sanaa said that half of Yemen's population are living under the poverty line, 33 percent of the population are suffering food insecurity and 44 percent of children below five are suffering from malnutrition.
The survey said only six percent of the poor families have sanitation services.
Meanwhile, officials at the Social Welfare Fund said the government is helping around 1.5 percent out of around 12 million poor people.
The officials said that lack of funds mainly because of delay in donor aid stands as the key reason for the low number of those supported by the fund.
Meanwhile, conflicts add to other challenges including the recently deepened fuel shortages and power outages whose impacts have been directly reflected on the national economy and people's lives here.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced due to the offensive on al-Qaida in southern and southeastern regions and conflicts between the Houthi rebels, tribes and the army in the far north.
Marzouk Mohsen, director of the Yemeni Economic and Social Development Research Center, said the aid provided by the fund to poor people is not enough and is given every three months which is not appropriate.
"Based on world standards to help the poor, what the fund gives the poor in Yemen remains the lowest in the world, around 300 U.S. dollars per family a year," he said.
Mohsen said the economic situation in Yemen has not changed because of security and political instability despite what seems to be commitment to the power transition deal.
"With development and economic reforms, countries help the people. In Yemen, the government investment program has been suspended for three years and the private sector has been reluctant amid continuous security problems," Mohsen said.
This year, the prices of most products are steady but another problem emerged which is low demand of services and products as the country continues to suffer from financial problems.
Most of the country's financial problems are blamed on sharp drops in oil revenues amid repeated acts of sabotage against crude pipelines. Yemen depends largely on oil revenues which account for more than 70 percent of the state budget resources.
However, prices of some products rose by five percent and 10 percent this year compared to last year and that is because of fuel shortages, said Mustafa Nasr, head of the Economic Studies and Media Center.
"The national economy has not recovered and the government has been unable to put an end to sabotage. Owing to that, people's incomes have not improved and many sectors and businesses have been affected by turmoil here," Mustafa said.