UN data shows that fuel imports to Houthi-controlled territory have exceeded the monthly average since October
Yemen’s Economic Committee accuses Houthis of manufacturing a fuel crisis
The Yemeni government’s Aden-based Economic Committee (EC) on Monday accused the Houthis in Sana’a of creating a fuel crisis in territories under their control by selling imported fuel on unregulated black markets to finance war efforts. In recent days, Yemenis in Sana'a said there have been signs of a new fuel shortage.
The EC posted an infographic infographic claiming that 919,300 tons of fuel were imported to Houthi authorities from Oct. 1 to Jan. 10, which the committee said is enough fuel to cover civilian and humanitarian needs until mid-March. However, the United Nations Verification and Inspections Mechanism (UNVIM), which monitors all cargo entering Yemen’s Red Sea ports, shows that only 668,000 tons of fuel were imported to Houthi-controlled areas from Oct. 1 to Jan. 7. While the UN's estimate is considerably lower than the EC’s, it is still shows that fuel shipments since October have exceeded the average monthly commercial fuel imports to Houthi territory, which the UN estimates at about 160,000 tons per month. Houthi fuel imports fell below that threshold in January, April and September of 2019 (and several more times in 2018), leading the Houthis to accuse the Yemeni government of purposefully restricting the energy supplies.
Total revenues from fuel shipments to Yemen between October and January amounted to 52 billion Yemeni rials, more than half of which came from fuel imports passing through the Red Sea ports at Hodeidah. Those funds were deposited in a temporary account at the Central Bank branch in Hodeidah under the supervision of the UN. The money will be used to pay salaries of civil servants, some of whom haven’t been paid for more than four years.
The humanitarian effects of real or manufactured fuel crises are far reaching. During a typical shortage, large numbers of petrol pumps selling fuel at market prices (about 400 rials per liter) close or have limited operating hours, causing long queues of vehicles including those transporting aid. At the same time, black market fuel prices spike, driving up the cost of one liter to about 1,000 rials. Diesel shortages disrupt the operations of hospitals and public services like water treatment plants, which rely on generators for electricity. In addition to petrol and diesel shortages, regular Yemenis have to pay soaring prices for cooking oil.