Central bank move hampers Yemen wheat imports: UN
Wheat imports into rebel areas of Yemen have become difficult after the central bank moved from the insurgent-controlled capital, a UN official said yesterday, in a war-torn country heavily dependent on food imports. “Four major importers of wheat into this country have informed the authorities (in Sanaa) that as of January they will no longer be able to fulfil their obligations,” said the UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen.
“We know it is very difficult for these importers to get lines of credit on the open market,” Jamie McGoldrick said, “because the central bank is no longer here in Sanaa”.
President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in September decided to move the central bank from the rebel-held capital to Aden, the temporary base of his government, after accusing the insurgents of running down Yemen’s foreign reserves. Even before a Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes against the Huthi rebels in Yemen in March 2015, Yemen imported 90 percent of its food, and as much as 95 percent of its wheat, according to the United Nations. McGoldrick also said the imports of goods and medicine had been hampered by slow offloading due to damage at the rebel-held port of Hodeida on the Red Sea.
UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien said in October that “smashed cranes” at the port were hindering the entry of aid supplies to ease a deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The Huthis and troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh overran Sanaa in September 2014 and went on to seize other areas of the country. A UN report released in August found that the rebels and their allies were diverting about $100 million a month from the central bank, and that its foreign reserves had dwindled to $1.3 billion from about $4 billion in November 2014.
The relocation of the bank has been a major blow to the rebels, forcing them to halt salary payments to state employees in the areas of the country they control.
UN agencies in June warned that virtually all of Yemen was facing severe food shortages with seven million people in an “emergency” situation.
SANAA: UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen Jamie McGoldrick holds a press conference in the capital Sanaa yesterday.