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Despite seasonal improvement with Ramadan, food consumption gaps to widen

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Yemen
  • February - September 2024
Despite seasonal improvement with Ramadan, food consumption gaps to widen

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Current Food Security Outcomes
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Assumptions
  • Most Likely Acute Food Security Outcomes
  • Areas of Concern
  • Key Messages
    • After nine years of war, millions of poor households have exhausted their ability to employ even severe livelihood coping strategies (such as sending children to join armed groups or engaging in risky work) as they seek to meet their basic needs. Despite some temporary relief in March and April associated with social support (zakat) during the holy month of Ramadan, millions will likely continue to face food consumption gaps in the face of highly limited income-earning opportunities, above-average food prices, and, in areas controlled by the Sana’a-based authorities (SBA), the ongoing pause in humanitarian food assistance. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected to remain widespread across the country, with Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes expected to emerge in several governorates where more than half the population received assistance prior to the pause in December 2023.
    • In SBA-controlled areas, the pause in WFP-provided humanitarian food assistance under the General Food Assistance (GFA) program has increased dependence on markets for households across wealth groups that were previously GFA beneficiaries. Evidence from key informants indicates that even comparatively better-off households have reduced non-essential expenditures, in turn reducing opportunities for poor households to earn income including through daily wage labor or petty trade. On top of this, the insecurity in the Red Sea has disrupted fishing livelihoods, causing income losses for both fishers and poor households who were previously engaged in income-earning opportunities along the supply and marketing chains. As such, in SBA areas, improvements in the business operating environment and availability of income-earning opportunities that previously occurred due to declining levels of conflict have been at least partially eroded since late 2023.
    • In areas controlled by the internationally recognized government (IRG), shortages of revenue and foreign currency persist. On February 8, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia provided 250 million USD of financial support to the Aden-based Central Bank of Yemen (CBY-Aden). However, needs far exceed the value of the deposit amid the ongoing halt in oil exports, and the local currency continued to depreciate in February. Throughout the projection period, the CBY-Aden is expected to conduct foreign currency auctions only on an intermittent basis, and further depreciation of the currency is expected to drive rising prices of food and non-food commodities. Civil servants will likely continue to experience exacerbated delays in receiving their salaries, and limited purchasing capacity among even middle-income and better-off households will continue to limit opportunities for poorer households to earn income.

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Since November 2023, tensions in the Red Sea and Aden Gulf have escalated as Ansar Allah—the formal name of the group referred to as the Sana’a-based authorities (SBA)—continue their attacks on commercial ships in response to the Israeli military operation in Gaza. According to a Yemeni security firm, there have been 39 incidents as of February 28, 2024; 21 of them occurred in the Red Sea, while the remaining were in the Gulf of Aden. 

    On December 31, the first clash between SBA forces and US Navy helicopters was reported in the Red Sea during a hijacking attempt by the SBA of the commercial vessel Maersk Hangzhou. The incident resulted in the killing of ten armed men from the Yemeni side. On January 12, amid the rising tension, the US-led coalition launched a series of proportionate strikes against SBA targets in Yemen, aiming to protect the vital shipping lane passing through the Bab Al Mandab Strait and the Red Sea toward the Suez Canal, which is the shortest shipping route to Europe. 

    These developments are complicating the process of peace negotiations between the major parties to the conflict: the SBA and the internationally recognized government backed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Although diplomatic efforts are ongoing, heightened political tensions—including the redesignation of SBA as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group (SDTG) announced on January 17—risk undermining the process of negotiating a final roadmap for ending the nine-year civil war. For instance, in February 2024, UN arrangements that aimed to bring the warring parties together in Mecca were aborted due to the conflict in the Middle East. 

    Despite a slight uptick in conflict in frontline areas in January, overall levels of conflict remain low compared to the pre-truce period (prior to April 2022). Frontlines in the Shabwah-Ma’rib-Al Bayda region remain the primary hotspot for military activities. In January 2024, clashes between SBA forces and forces of the IRG were reported in Harib district of Ma’rib when SBA forces attempted to advance toward IRG-controlled Shabwah. Escalating clashes between the two sides were also reported in January in Bayhan district of Shabwah, resulting in many casualties from both sides. Additionally, SBA forces are reportedly scaling up their troop presence near IRG-controlled Marib; this is ostensibly with an eye toward capturing the strategically located governorate, though the SBA may be engaging in political posturing to increase leverage during negotiations. 

    In addition to conflict between SBA and IRG forces, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) remains a threat to security in parts of southern and eastern Yemen. On January 19, AQAP targeted a Shabwah Defense Forces security checkpoint in Al Sa’eed district of Shabwah with mortar shells. Prior to this, an AQAP attack in Abyan on January 7 resulted in the killing of two officers from the Southern Transitional Council (STC), a secessionist organization in southern Yemen. This type of insecurity is more spread out across affected areas—mainly Abyan and Shabwah—compared to ground conflict in frontline areas, though with generally less severe impacts on livelihoods due to the lower conflict intensity.

    Conflict continues to drive population displacement in Yemen, though at much lower rates compared to the pre-truce period. In early 2024, many households sought safer areas due to military activities, including in the Shabwah-Ma’rib-Al Bayda region. In January 2024, around 344 households (2,064 individuals) were displaced from IOM-monitored areas under IRG control. The majority were displaced from Ma’rib and Al Hudaydah, with conflict cited as the main reason for displacement. While the number displaced in January 2024 was 25 percent higher than the prior month, it was still 68 percent lower than the number displaced in January 2023 (Figure 1) and 85 percent lower compared to January 2022 (prior to the truce, now expired).  According to the IOM, 32 percent of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in January were in need of food assistance and 26 percent were in need of shelter. Additionally, in late October 2023, Tropical Cyclone Tej and associated flooding drove a notable spike in displacement in eastern coastal areas including in Al Mahrah, Hadramout, and Socotra. Thousands of households were displaced, the majority (3,750) in Al Mahrah. While 3,544 households have reportedly returned home, many of these households lost assets and income-earning opportunities and remain vulnerable to future shocks given reduced coping capacity.

    Figure 1

    Number of households displaced, monthly, January 2023 to January 2024, in IOM-monitored areas (only IRG-controlled territory)
    This figure shows the number of households displaced per month in IOM-monitored areas in IRG-controlled territory from Janaury 2023 to January 2024

    Source: IOM

    Poor macroeconomic conditions continue to be a primary driver of acute food insecurity in Yemen, due to impacts on income-earning (including due to a poor business environment and the government’s inability to pay salaries consistently, in both IRG and SBA areas) and on prices (which have increased over the years, especially in IRG areas where the currency continues to depreciate). Though the decline in conflict has facilitated an improved business operating environment in recent years, income-earning opportunities remain highly limited overall, largely linked to recently declining purchasing capacity among the population. Across the country, households across wealth groups are being forced to spend more of their income on food from markets due to both rising prices in IRG areas and the pause in humanitarian assistance in SBA areas, ongoing since December 2023. At the same time, comparatively better-off, mainly middle-income  households have experienced reductions in key sources of income; in IRG areas, civil servants are experiencing worsening delays in salary payments, while fishing households in SBA areas are experiencing significant additional disruptions to livelihoods due to the ongoing insecurity in the Red Sea. With middle-income and even better-off households in SBA areas reducing non-essential expenditures due to these factors, availability of opportunities for poor households to earn income (mainly through wage labor) is declining, eroding gains achieved earlier in the post-truce period. Meanwhile, in IRG areas, availability of opportunities for poor households to earn income is assessed to be generally similar to last year. In 2023, the IOM recorded 1,099 households displaced for economic reasons in IRG areas, representing an 11 percent decline compared to the 1,239 households displaced due to economic reasons in 2022. 

    In IRG areas, economic conditions continue to deteriorate. The oil sector has traditionally provided the IRG’s main source of hard currency and government revenue. However, the oil sector has contracted significantly since October 2022 due to the ongoing halt of oil exports resulting from the SBA threat of drone strikes. This has caused a substantial decline in the IRG’s revenue inflows, exacerbated more recently by the SBA blockade of imports (including cooking gas) via land borders. In response, the IRG has substantially cut expenditures and has also taken advantage of the overdraft facility of the Central Bank of Yemen in Aden (CBY-Aden), leading to a 10 percent increase in government claims in the first half of 2023 and a 5 percent increase in the amount of currency in circulation. However, the IRG is increasingly unable to fund the public budget. This has led to prolonged blackouts and worsening delays in the payment of civil servant salaries. Employees of non-revenue generating government ministries that rely on budgetary support from the Ministry of Finance—such as doctors (Ministry of Health) and teachers (Ministry of Education)—have reportedly not been paid since January 2024.

    The Aden-based rial used in IRG areas continues to depreciate, driven by shortages of foreign currency, the large amount of local currency in circulation, and the inability of the CBY-Aden to control parallel currency markets. According to data from FAO, the parallel market exchange rate averaged 1,647 YER/USD in February 2024, after losing 6 percent of its value from January to February. This deprecation occurred despite two notable positive developments in February that, based on past patterns, would ordinarily have driven some temporary appreciation. On February 5, the IRG’s Presidential Leadership Council appointed a new prime minister; previously, changes in leadership have come with hope for change in management of the economy. Shortly after, on February 8, the CBY-Aden received the second batch of 250 million USD in financial support from the KSA. This enabled the CBY-Aden to subsequently announce on February 12 that an exceptional auction—with a large total auction amount of 60,000,000 USD—would be held on February 15. Though it is difficult to ascertain the reasons, the trend of overall depreciation in February despite these developments may be at least partially attributable to: 1) the market losing faith in any lasting positive impacts; and 2) seasonal high demand for hard currency to finance imports prior to Ramadan. 

    Though crop production is important for Yemen’s economy and for rural livelihoods, Yemen’s staple food supply is highly dependent on imports. According to Oxfam, imports account for around 90 percent of the staple cereal supply and 100 percent of the staple rice and sugar supply in Yemen. According to the Sana’a-based Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and the Aden-based General Authority for Standardization and Metrology, Yemen imported a total 5,210,992 MT of basic food commodities via sea and land ports (excluding Al Mukalla) throughout 2023, representing a 5 percent increase compared to 2022 (4,945,343 MT). Of the total amount imported in 2023, 72 percent entered through the SBA-controlled western Red Sea ports; this is similar to the share in 2022 but higher than the 2021 share (which was 59 percent) by 13 percentage points. In terms of absolute levels of imports, the total amount of food that entered via IRG ports (excluding Al Mukalla) in 2023 was also similar to the amount in 2022 (2 percent higher) but 31 percent lower than in 2021 (Figure 2). Meanwhile, the total amount imported via SBA ports in 2023 was 7 percent and 21 percent higher than in 2022 and 2021, respectively. These patterns are largely explained by a shift in imports from IRG to SBA ports that occurred starting in late 2022 as the SBA took measures to redirect imports through ports under its control after the KSA eased restrictions on imports via the Red Sea ports. Also during 2022, typical importation supply chains were disrupted following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

    Figure 2

    Annual imports of basic food commodities (MT) via all sea and land ports, in IRG areas (excluding Al Mukalla), SBA areas, and national total, 2021–2023
    This figure shows annual basic food commodity imports in in IRG areas (excluding Al Mukalla), SBA areas, and the national total, 2021-2023

    Source: FEWS NET, using data from Sana’a based Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Aden-based General Authority for Standardization and Metrology

    More recently, in January 2024, a total 448,499 MT of basic food commodities were imported into Yemen. Of this, only 82,583 MT entered via IRG ports, representing only 18 percent of the total imports for that month and a 64 percent drop compared to the amount imported via IRG ports in January 2023. However, this is likely within the realm of typical month-to-month fluctuation, and traders in IRG areas are expected to compensate in the coming months. Meanwhile, the nearly 366,000 MT that entered via the Red Sea ports represents a 16 percent increase over the monthly average in 2023. The ongoing insecurity in the Red Sea is not expected to impact imports into Yemen, as most shippers that serve Yemen are different from the large international shippers who are re-directing their shipments to avoid the Red Sea. 

    Across Yemen, fuel remains generally available in major markets, supported by an increase in fuel import levels during the second half of 2023. As of January 2024, domestic fuel prices were stable or declining, largely linked to an 18 percent decline in global fuel prices from October to December 2023. On average at the national level, official domestic petrol prices remained stable at 766 YER/L between December 2023 and January 2024, while official domestic diesel prices declined by 6 percent to reach 799 YER in January, according to data from FAO. However, over the past year, fuel prices have increased overall in IRG-controlled areas due largely to depreciation of the local currency. In the Aden reference market, official petrol prices in January 2024 averaged 1,320 YER/L, which is 38 percent higher compared to the same time in 2023 and 120 percent above the four-year average. At 1,338 YER/L, diesel prices in Aden were 16 percent higher compared to the same time last year and 64 percent higher than the four-year average (Figure 3). On the other hand, in SBA areas, fuel prices have remained stable or declined over the past year, though remain higher than the four-year average. In the SBA reference market of Amanat al Asimah (Sana’a city), official petrol and diesel prices both stood at 475 YER/L in January 2024, 27 percent and 8 percent higher, respectively, than the four-year average.

    Figure 3

    Official diesel prices (YER/L), monthly, in Aden reference market, January 2023 to January 2024, and month-to-month price changes
    A graph of the diesel prices in Aden reference market

    Source: FEWS NET, using FAO data

    According to data from FAO, prices of basic food commodities were generally stable in January 2024 compared to the previous month, supported by normal importation and stable or declining fuel prices. Overall, the cost of the monthly minimum food basket (MFB) in Amanat al Asimah averaged 46,483 YER in January 2024, similar to the previous month but 12 percent lower than the previous year and 14 percent higher than the four-year average, largely linked to trends in global food prices and domestic fuel prices. Meanwhile, the cost of the MFB in Aden was 121,708 YER, similar to the previous year but 49 percent higher than the four-year average. The trend of stable or declining food prices over the past year has supported stable (in IRG areas) or slightly improving (in SBA areas) household purchasing power in terms of the amount of food that a household can purchase per unit of income. However, many poor households in SBA areas have been unable to benefit from the positive trend due to increased market reliance following the pause in food assistance alongside reduced availability of income-earning opportunities. 

    Trends in the cost of the MFB are largely driven by trends in staple wheat flour prices, which makes up the majority of the basket. However, prices of other staple commodities have followed different trends. For instance, prices of non-basmati rice—a key staple for poor households in coastal areas particularly—declined by 7 percent from December 2023 to January 2024 in Aden, though remained 17 percent higher than the same time last year. On the other hand, prices of imported sunflower oil increased by 8 percent. These patterns are largely linked to global price trends. Meanwhile, in the reference markets of both Amanat Al Asimah and Aden, the price of sugar in January 2024 remained the most elevated among monitored commodities compared to historical records. Compared to the previous year, the price of sugar in January was 22 percent higher in Amanat Al Asimah and 48 percent higher in Aden. Compared to the four-year average, the price of sugar was 59 and 118 percent higher in Amanat al Asimah and Aden, respectively.

    According to reporting by the Yemeni Ministry of Planning & International Cooperation, agriculture remains important for the national economy and livelihoods, with the livelihoods of an estimated 73.5 percent of rural Yemeni households dependent on the agriculture sector as of 2019. However, due primarily to the impacts of the protracted conflict, Yemen’s agricultural output in terms of GDP declined from 797 billion YER in 2014 to 524 billion YER (constant prices) in 2020. The long-term trend has been largely driven by scarce water resources and rising prices of agricultural inputs amid farming households’ declining purchasing capacity. IRG-controlled areas, which are largely lowland areas dependent on irrigation, have been more severely impacted due to the high cost of diesel required for irrigation.

    Livestock rearing is a vital source of food and income for many families in rural and peri-urban areas. In a normal year, income from livestock sales typically decline between November and February as pastoralists wait to sell sheep and goats until the peak demand season from March to June (when meat consumption increases due to increased remittances during Ramadan and the Eid holidays). However, many livestock owners were forced to sell livestock earlier than usual in 2023, at low prices, in order to compensate for gaps in income-earning given the generally poor economic conditions. For example, according to key informants in Al Marawi’ah district of Al Hudaydah, herders in Al Hudaydah sold young lambs at very low prices due to their inability to afford fodder purchases during the winter. 

    Fishing is an important livelihood activity for households living in coastal regions as well as for households engaged in income-earning opportunities along the marketing chain. However, the recent rise in insecurity in the Red Sea is causing significant disruption to typical fishing activities for a large number of households. Reportedly, fishermen in Al Hudaydah, Hajjah and Ta’izz are currently facing heightened difficulties in accessing fishing areas due to the prevalence of SBA and foreign naval forces, forcing many of them to other more distant fishing waters of Aden, and Al Mukalla. On February 5, the US conducted heavy strikes targeting Al Katheeb beach in Al Hudaydah (parts of which were turned into a military area by the SBA in 2022), with eight bodies of fishermen found off the Dhu Al Hurab islands in Hajjah around the same time. Overall, according to one media source, an estimated 30,000 fishermen have lost their source of income as a result of the escalation in the Red Sea. In addition, 21,000 casual workers in the sector are reportedly suffering from reduced work opportunities in related markets. This comes on top of pre-existing threats to fishing livelihoods due to naval mines—which proliferated after the easing restriction mechanism in June 2023—and due to the presence of military zones since around 2020 which have prevented fishing activities and forced fish landing centers to be relocated in multiple areas along the Red Sea. Meanwhile, in the Arabian Sea, maritime checkpoints established on January 30, 2024, by the Indian navy as preventive measures against growing piracy have negatively impacted fishermen, although the overall damage to the sector has been lower than in the Red Sea.

    Climate-related shocks have become more frequent and intense in Yemen. Rainfall distribution patterns have generally become more volatile, with impacts on rainfed agriculture. Most recently, during the July to September 2023 second rainy season, rainfall started late and cumulative seasonal rainfall was below average. As a result, the main harvest of cereal crops (harvested from September to November) was reportedly below average levels. Due to crop failure in much of the highlands (where crops are largely cultivated in rainfed terraces), farmers were forced to use much of the sorghum crop as fodder. 

    Figure 4

    Number of Yemeni migrants returning from the KSA to Yemen, monthly, in 2022 and 2023
    In 2023, the number of returns was slightly lower than in 2022, but still averaged 4,600 individuals returning every month.

    Source: FEWS NET using IOM data

    The ongoing winter season in highland areas is characterized as an agricultural off-season. However, poor households are able to access some income from labor opportunities associated with the ongoing small-scale harvest of vegetables (such as onion and cucumber) in addition to land preparation and planting activities for the coming cereals season. In higher-elevation areas, production of qat—a key prioritized cash crop due to its high demand nationwide—also occurs year-round, with peak production levels in the summer. As the current winter season comes to an end, qat production in the central and northern highlands of the country is currently near average levels, providing a significant source of agricultural labor opportunities and income-earning opportunities associated with qat marketing activities. Meanwhile, in lowland areas, the winter cereal harvest (mainly maize, millet, and barley) is ongoing and is expected to largely conclude in early March. This is providing farming households with a temporary increase in food availability. Additionally, farmers in lowland areas (especially situated on the coastline of the Gulf of Aden and on the Tihama Plain) cultivate irrigated products including vegetables, bananas, and mangos. Currently in February, farmers have started to harvest vegetables and are preparing for the mango harvest season. 

    In January 2024, five desert locust outbreaks were reported in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden coastal regions, including in Egypt, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Sudan. Aerial and ground control operations have increased in these countries. According to FAO reporting, locust presence in Yemen remains low overall. However, some copulation of adult groups was confirmed along the southern coast, while the outbreak conditions along the Red Sea coasts is unclear.

    Given the severe erosion of livelihoods over nearly ten years of conflict, cross-border remittances provide a key supplementary source of income for a considerable portion of middle-income households and a small portion of poor households in both urban and rural areas. Seasonally, remittances typically decline from September to December before gradually increasing again, reaching peak levels between March and June around the Ramadan and Eid holidays. In 2020, the vice foreign minister confirmed that foreign remittances also represent one of the main sources of hard currency in Yemen, estimated at 8 billion USD per year, with the majority of remittances coming from Saudi Arabia where around 30 percent of Yemeni migrants resided as of 2020. Since that time, increasingly strict labor nationalization policies in the KSA have likely reduced the number of Yemenis working in KSA and sending remittances. In 2023, the total number of returnees from Saudi Arabia exceeded 50,000, with an average of 4,600 individuals returning every month (Figure 4). While this rate of return represents a 15 percent decline compared to 2022, it is expected that the number of Yemeni migrants returning from the KSA continues to exceed the number of Yemenis entering, given the increasing risks of crossing the border illegally as evidenced by a rise in reports of shootings at the border. 

    For many years, humanitarian food assistance has provided millions of people in Yemen with a significant share of their total food. WFP has reached around 13 million beneficiaries regularly with assistance under the General Food Assistance (GFA) program since the scale-up that occurred in 2019. Though assistance distributions were equivalent to around 80 percent of a household’s minimum basic energy requirements throughout most of this time, several iterations of scale-down have occurred in recent years. Most significantly, in December 2023, WFP paused all assistance under the GFA program to beneficiaries in SBA areas—affecting around 9.5 million of the total 13.1 million beneficiaries in Y     emen—following failure to reach agreement around beneficiary verification and targeting amid highly limited funding. This has directly affected not only poor households, but also comparatively better-off households who were previously on assistance beneficiary lists. Negotiations around terms that would permit the resumption of assistance in SBA areas are ongoing. However, even when an agreement is reached, resuming food assistance distributions will take time given the need to re-establish essential logistics. 

    Meanwhile, WFP is continuing its livelihood assistance, school feeding, and nutrition treatment programming nationwide, albeit at reduced levels due to atypically severe funding shortfalls. For instance, in December 2023, livelihood related activities achieved only 15 percent of the target plan due primarily to funding gaps. 

    Also of high concern, WFP completely suspended malnutrition prevention programming in Yemen in January 2024 due to funding shortfalls, affecting 2.4 million beneficiaries. Acute malnutrition rates within Yemen likely remain among the highest in the world due to a combination of food and non-food factors (such as sanitation and disease), though with elevated levels primarily attributed to the myriad impacts of the protracted conflict and poor macroeconomic conditions on access to clean water and sufficient quantity and quality of food. Currently, reduced food assistance and decreased funding for preventive services are deteriorating nutrition conditions.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    The protracted conflict, entering its tenth year, has caused significant damage to livelihoods and economic conditions, reducing opportunities for accessing food and income. Many poor households typically rely on limited daily wage labor to earn income, with market purchases and humanitarian assistance the most common sources of food. Since December 2023, the total pause in WFP assistance under the GFA program in SBA areas is increasing reliance on markets, with many poor households unable to earn sufficient income to meet their needs. In IRG-controlled areas, continuous currency depreciation is driving rising prices of food and non-food commodities, and poor economic conditions are limiting opportunities for earning income. Of high concern is the fact that civil servants in the health and education sectors, among others (including the military sector which has faced irregular payments for more than four years), have not received salary payments since January 2024 due to the gap in the public budget. 

    In rural highland areas, income-earning opportunities associated with agricultural production and related marketing activities are currently limited given the agricultural off-season, and farming households have likely already depleted food stocks from the October to November cereal harvest. Additionally, most of Yemen’s highlands are under SBA control, such that many households are facing increased market reliance due to the pause in food  assistance, at the same time as reduced purchasing capacity among the general population is further limiting income-earning opportunities. 

    In lowland rural areas, the ongoing harvest of cereals and vegetable and fruit cultivation season is improving access to seasonal food and income for many poor households in February. Meanwhile, access to food and income from livestock production remains seasonally limited in February, and many households dependent on fishing are experiencing below-average access to food and income due to insecurity associated with naval mines and the escalating military tensions in the Red Sea. 

    After nine years of protracted conflict and poor economic conditions, many poor households have already fully exhausted available coping strategies including sending children to join armed groups or engaging in risky work. As such, millions are likely facing food consumption gaps or widening food consumption gaps. At the area level, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes remain widespread, as millions contend with insufficient access to food and income. In SBA areas, a growing number of households are likely to be facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes, given their inability to compensate for the ongoing pause in assistance.

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal Calendar image showing harvest periods for Yemen

    Source: FEWS NET


    The most likely scenario from February to September 2024 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • While FEWS NET previously anticipated a new round of peace talks during the February to May 2024 period, the ongoing tensions in the Red Sea including the recent US decision to redesignate the SBA (Ansar Allah) as a SDGT are expected to delay talks, which are now expected to occur in the June to September period. 
    • Conflict is expected to continue near currently observed levels and much lower in comparison to the pre-truce period. Fighting will likely continue to be characterized primarily by ground fighting, with Saudi coalition airstrikes remaining on hold. Ground fighting is expected to remain concentrated in the main frontline areas of Ta’izz, Marib, Al Jawf, and Al Dali’ throughout the projection period, with some intensification of conflict possible. However, it is unlikely that continued military engagements will lead to shifts in territorial control. 
    • The SBA are expected to continue attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea. The US will likely continue to conduct airstrikes on SBA military assets, and the SBA will likely continue to retaliate with missile and drone attacks against US and UK naval assets. 
    • It is likely that AQAP attacks against STC forces will increase, as the group seeks to opportunistically exploit the increasing fragmentation within IRG factions and growing regional tensions. AQAP attacks are likely to continue to be sporadic in nature. A significant increase in AQAP operations or territorial gains remains unlikely given the group’s limited capabilities. 
    • Oil exports from IRG areas are expected to remain suspended throughout at least the majority of the projection period given the slow pace of ongoing peace talks. As such, associated government revenue and foreign exchange inflows are likely to remain minimal. 
    • Based on recent patterns, the 250 million USD deposit provided by the KSA to the CBY-Aden is expected to allow the CBY-Aden to conduct a limited number of intermittent foreign currency auctions during the projection period. 
    • Based on expectations for ongoing shortages of foreign currency, the Aden-based rial in IRG areas is expected to continue to depreciate in line with recent trends, with a ceiling of 1,800 YER/USD during the projection period. In SBA areas, the local currency is expected to remain generally stable at a level below 550 YER/USD, given the fixed exchange rate approach used by the SBA.
    • The IRG’s revenue shortages are likely to lead to delays in the payment of pensions and civil servant salaries during the projection period. The military sector and employees of government institutions that depend on the Ministry of Finance for funding are likely to be worst affected, with salary payments occurring around every three or four months. In SBA areas, civil servants will continue to experience long standing delays and disruptions to salary payments.
    • Available forecasts indicate that global Brent crude oil prices are expected to remain close to the 2023 average at 82 USD per barrel in 2024. In SBA areas, fuel prices are expected to increase slightly throughout the projection period due to rising importation costs. In IRG areas, fuel prices are expected to increase moderately due to both depreciation of the local currency and rising importation costs.
    • Food import levels are expected to remain stable. However, high freight and insurance costs are likely to raise the cost of importation, putting additional upward pressure on food prices.
    • Following the notable reduction in wheat output in Russia and Australia—countries that accounted for three quarters of all the wheat imported into Yemen between January and August 2023—Russia’s durum wheat export ban is expected to necessitate some supply chain adjustments, putting upward pressure on prices. 
    • In IRG areas, staple food prices are expected to increase moderately due primarily to currency depreciation. Based on FEWS NET price projections, wheat flour prices are expected to increase moderately in the Aden reference market and are likely to remain between the reasonable boundaries of 864 and 1,070 YER/kg. In SBA areas, staple food prices are expected to increase only marginally due to price caps enforced by SBA authorities and a stable exchange rate. In the Amanat Al Asmah reference market, wheat flour prices are projected to increase marginally and are likely to remain between the boundaries of 255 and 445 YER/kg.
    • The provision of humanitarian food assistance is anticipated to remain at current levels during the projection period, with the pause in WFP GFA assistance in SBA areas likely to be sustained. Even if an agreement is reached during the projection period, restarting operations will take time.
    • During the month of Ramadan (early March to early April), income from cross-border remittances is expected to slightly and temporarily increase seasonally. Overall, remittance inflows will likely be similar to last year but below the five-year average during the projection period, given the continued difficulties that Yemeni migrant workers face in entering or remaining in the KSA, and the high number of recorded returning households.
    • Based on expectations for El Niño conditions in the spring and available ensemble forecasts, cumulative rainfall in Yemen’s March to May 2024 first rainy season is most likely to be average. Likewise, cumulative rainfall in Yemen’s July to September second rainy season is most likely to be average, although uncertainty exists given the long lead-time of the forecast.
    • Given the average rainfall expectation for both rainy seasons, along with anticipated high fuel prices, crop production is likely to remain close to the previous year's level.
    • In central highland areas, the wheat and barley harvests are expected around May/June, and millet is expected in September. In the northern highlands, harvesting of wheat and barley is expected around March/April. In the eastern plateau and along the Arabian Sea coast, harvesting of sorghum and millet is expected around June/July. In the central highlands, some harvesting of maize is expected in September. In the Tihama Plain, harvesting of sorghum is expected around August. Cereal production will slightly improve food availability for rural farming households for up to one to two months following the harvest.
    • The June to September main fruit and vegetable production season in the highlands is expected to provide rural poor households with increased access to food and income from labor opportunities along the production and marketing chains, while in urban areas it is expected to provide income through petty trade. In lowland areas, income from labor opportunities will slightly improve during the fruit and vegetable production season from February to May before declining during the June to September agricultural off-season. Overall, income from agricultural labor will likely be similar to recent years but below pre-crisis levels.
    • The risk of cyclone strikes and associated flooding for Socotra and the southern Gulf of Aden coast is highest from mid-April to mid-June and from October to December. In the peak periods from mid-April to May, the risk of cyclone strikes will likely be above average due to forecasted above-average sea surface temperatures in the Arabian Sea.
    • Vegetation and pasture conditions are expected to seasonally decline through February/March 2024 during the dry period, improve from March to May during the first rainy season, seasonally decline during the dry period through June/July, and then finally improve from July to September 2024 during the second rainy season. Given expectations for above-average temperatures, deterioration during dry periods is likely to be faster than normal. Overall, vegetation conditions are likely to remain mixed compared to average, although more areas are likely to see below-average vegetation conditions throughout the projection period due to the above-average temperatures.
    • Income from livestock sales will likely be near average levels and will likely increase as is typical during Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr (early March to early April) and Eid Al-Adha (June) due to seasonally high demand and prices. In lowland areas, the lack of available pasture and high fodder prices from May to July will likely drive poor pastoralist households to sell their livestock at lower prices (near farm gate prices) to cover production costs, despite the increased demand during Eid Al-Adha (June). 
    • Harvesting of qat is expected year-round in higher-elevation areas. Qat production is expected to be near average given the prioritization of this cash crop. Real income from qat sales and labor opportunities along the production and marketing chains are expected to be near average.
    • In the Red Sea, income from fishing is likely to remain notably lower than last year, mainly due to limited access to fishing grounds amid ongoing tensions in the Red Sea and the expectation of rising costs of inputs, including fuel. Additionally, income from fishing is likely to be at seasonally low levels during the local monsoon seasons, through March along the Red Sea coast, and from May to September along the Gulf of Aden coast and Socotra.

    Most Likely Acute Food Security Outcomes

    Across the country, poor macroeconomic conditions and low purchasing capacity among the population will continue to strain the business environment and limit livelihood and income-earning opportunities. While poor households across the country will benefit from a temporary increase in access to food and income in March and April from high livestock demand and seasonal social support during the holy month of Ramadan, middle-income and better-off households are also facing additional reductions in purchasing capacity due primarily to, in SBA areas, the pause in GFA assistance and, in IRG areas, rising prices and additional delays in salary payments. As a result, levels of food and cash gifts (zakat) will likely be lower than in previous years and many poor households will continue to face food consumption gaps even during this time. The relief provided to poor households will be highly temporary, with resources likely to be exhausted in April.

    In rural highland areas, poor households' access to income from agricultural labor will remain largely at seasonally low levels through around June, before the main fruit and vegetable production season boosts demand for labor in the June to September period. However, in the northern highlands, rural households are expected to access some food and income from the winter season wheat and barley harvest in March to April and qat production will continue to provide some income-earning opportunities, including along the supply and marketing chain. Meanwhile, in rural lowland areas, the main harvest of fruit (particularly mangoes) from March to May as well as the sorghum harvest in June and July will provide some seasonal income from crop sales and daily wage labor during these periods. 

    Throughout the projection period, households dependent on fishing in coastal areas and dependent on labor opportunities linked to the fish marketing chain (especially in urban areas) will likely continue to experience below-average access to food and income from these sources. Though a slight seasonal improvement is expected after March along the Red Sea Coast following the end of the monsoon season, this will not be enough to compensate for the significant decline in fishing opportunities. High competition for the limited available opportunities along the Red Sea coast will continue to force fishers to travel farther distances to access fishing grounds—including to risky fishing waters close to East Africa—resulting in higher operational costs and reduced profits. Additionally, the monsoon season along the Gulf of Aden Coast will reduce available opportunities starting in May.

    Poor households in SBA areas who have recently lost humanitarian assistance or labor opportunities (due to the decline in purchasing capacity among the population as well as disruptions to fishing-linked livelihoods) have no remaining viable coping options. An increasing number will turn in desperation to collecting plastic bottles for marginal income-earning (less than 1 USD per kilogram collected), and many will be forced to skip meals or reduce meal portions. In IRG areas, expectations for rising prices and continued limitations in income-earning will also continue to force the poorest households to contend with food consumption gaps given exhaustion of coping capacity. Overall, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected to remain widespread across the country. In SBA areas where over 50 percent of the population received humanitarian assistance before the pause (Al Jawf, Sa’dah, Hajjah, Amran, AL Hudaydah, Al Mahwit, and Taizz), Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely to emerge in the February to May period and persist in the June to September period.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 1
    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario
    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    SBA-controlled areasSignificant disruption to imports into Al Hudaydah seaports

    Should this occur (for instance, if US airstrikes were to damage port infrastructure), this would likely lead to a significant decline in food and fuel stocks in SBA areas until importation supply chains could be rerouted through Aden port. Consumers who could afford to do so would likely increase market purchases in order to stock food in anticipation of shortages. This would likely lead to exhaustion of available food stocks in around two months. Given the time that would be required to plan and re-route imports, a period of up to two months of shortages would be possible. However, even beyond this, infrastructural capacity of Aden port (including storage facilities) is likely to be a limiting factor even after this time. 


    As a result of limited supply and rising fuel prices, food prices would increase notably in SBA areas. This would further reduce access to food for millions of poor households, whose market dependence has increased recently due to the pause in assistance. Additional households would likely face widening food consumption gaps, characteristic of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in the projection period, with some populations in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). 

    Areas of Concern

    Al Hudaydah Governorate 

    Current Situation

    At 21,000 square kilometers, the governorate of Al Hudaydah is bordered by the Red Sea in the west, Ta’izz and Ibb in the south, Al Mahwit, Sana’a, Raymah, and Dhamar in the east, and Hajjah in the north (Figure 5). The governorate occupies most of the western coastline on the Red Sea. According to the 2023 Humanitarian Needs Overview, the governorate’s total population is 3,244,192 individuals, more than 15 percent of whom are IDPs.

    There are four main rural livelihood zones in Al Hudaydah (YE07, YE11, YE12, & YE14) that provide a variety of agriculture-based livelihood opportunities for the population. Al Hudaydah is the biggest agricultural producer in the country, accounting for 28.6 percent of total agricultural production according to a 2020 Berghof Foundation report. A wide range of crops are cultivated in Al Hudaydah, including: maize, cotton, barley, sesame, beans, tobacco, tomato, cucumber, watermelon, okra, palm, mango, banana, onion, peppers, sweet potato, guava, lemon, limes, Arabian jasmine (fol), and henna. Animal husbandry and fishing are also important economic activities and offer potential for growth. Cattle, sheep, goats, and camels are widely reared, while fish and shrimp are caught from the sea.

    Figure 5

    Reference map for Al Hudaydah governorate
    reference map for Al Hudaydah in western Yemen

    Source: FEWS NET

    According to data from the Agriculture Book 2020, most of the governorate’s fertile land—in wadis, low-lying areas, and those with secured irrigation—is owned by just four percent of households in the governorate (87,500 landowners), or by those from outside Al Hudaydah. As such, the majority of the rural poor derive their livelihoods by working as agricultural laborers, leasing land, or sharecropping. Wage labor (agricultural and non-agricultural) is the main source of income for more than half of the governorate’s population and is particularly important for poor households. Although there was a noticeable increase in the availability of labor opportunities since the decline in conflict associated with the post-truce period, labor opportunities remain scarce overall and lower than during the pre-crisis period, due to the long-term impacts of the conflict on the agricultural sector and the fact that many agriculture lands are still in need of demining.

    According to World Bank analysis of data from a nationally representative Household Budget Survey conducted in 2014, prior to the start of the conflict, the governorate-level headcount poverty rate (based on a calculated national poverty line) stood at 58 percent in 2014, with nearly 1.7 million people considered poor. This is higher than the national headcount rate of 49 percent recorded at the same time. At the national level, the World Bank found that poverty was higher among larger households. Additionally, households headed by agricultural wage laborers were most likely to be in poverty, followed by self-employed agricultural workers and non-agricultural wage laborers. Since the outbreak of war, Al Hudaydah has been among the worst-affected by both ground conflict and airstrikes, leading to displacement, damage to livelihoods, and destruction of infrastructure including roads and sanitation infrastructure.

    Just as in the rest of the country, levels of conflict in Al Hudaydah remain significantly below those recorded during and before the truce. In the south, period upticks in conflict occur in frontline areas. As such, conflict continues to drive some population displacement, though also at lower levels compared to the pre-truce period. According to the IOM, 153 households were displaced between January 1 and February 24, 2024, in monitored IRG-controlled areas of the governorate. This is 31 percent higher than during the same period of 2022 (pre-truce). According to the Camp Coordination and Camp Management cluster, there were 50 registered IDP sites scattered across IRG-controlled areas of the governorate as of November 2023, accommodating 17,053 households (79,364 individuals); information available to comment on location and size of IDP sites in SBA-controlled areas is limited. Additionally, despite the reduction in active conflict, land mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) continue to restrict access and movement. Throughout 2023, ERW and landmines resulted in 162 casualties, including 90 injuries and 72 deaths.

    With 300 kilometers of coastline, the governorate of Al Hudaydah has the country’s third-largest fishing grounds. As such, the fishing sector in Al Hudaydah has been among the worst impacted by escalating insecurity in the Red Sea. Thousands of fishermen in the coastal areas have reportedly been forced to stop fishing due to the risk that they will be targeted by the US maritime coalition; most of the SBA’s attacks have been conducted by similar fishing boats, so fishermen perceive that they may be targeted. 

    Al Hudaydah governorate is home to the Al Hudaydah and As Salif seaports, where around 70 percent of the country’s commercial imports enter, according to UNDP reporting. As such, the seaports provide thousands of poor households with important income-earning opportunities through labor and petty trade. With increasing import volumes since 2021 and the decline in conflict since 2022, opportunities for earning income in Al Hudaydah city are expected to have increased somewhat overall. However, more recently, middle-income and better-off households who were previously beneficiaries of the GFA program are reducing non-essential expenditures in the aftermath of the pause in assistance in SBA areas, and this is in turn reducing availability of income-earning opportunities for poor households due to declining demand for goods and services, including hired labor. Additionally, the disruption to fishing is expected to have reduced fish marketing activities in Al Hudaydah city, reducing opportunities for labor and trading activities.

    Petrol and diesel commodities remain available in major markets, with prices lower than last year but still higher than the four-year average. According to data from FAO, official prices of both diesel and petrol have remained relatively stable in the second half of 2023 (July-December), on average at the governorate level. However, official petrol prices increased by a cumulative 6 percent from October to December, largely due to the increase in global prices. As of January 2024, official prices of petrol and diesel were 4 percent and 20 percent lower than the same time last year, respectively, but remained 20 percent and 8 percent higher than the four-year average. Over the past year, the overall trend of declining fuel prices has eased some pressure on petty trade and small business such as hotels and restaurants. 

    In lowland areas (most of the governorate), the sorghum harvest concluded by mid-December 2023 and the millet harvest concluded by January 2024. Crop production data are not currently available for the 2023/24 season; however, given agroclimatic conditions in 2023 that were similar to those in 2022, 2023/24 cereal production is expected to be somewhat similar to the favorable 2022/23 production levels, when 19,616 tons were produced, according to the Sana’a-based Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation. As of December 2023, prices of locally produced sorghum and millet grain averaged 333 YER/kg and 320 YER/kg respectively in the Al Hudaydah market, after declining 5 percent and 6 percent, respectively, from the previous month's prices given increased supply from the harvest and fuel prices improvement. Prices in December were 14 percent and 7 percent lower, respectively, than prices at the same time last year. 

    The average retail price of imported staple wheat flour in the Al Hudaydah markets was stable in the second half of 2023. As of December 2023, imported wheat flour prices averaged 354 YER/kg, 20 percent lower than at the same time last year and similar to the four-year average (3 percent higher). Similarly, the price of non-basmati rice was 463 YER/kg in December and has been generally stable throughout 2023. The cost of the MFB has followed similar trends. Compared to last year and the four-year average, the cost of the MFB in December 2023 was 8 percent lower than at the same time of the prior year but remained 11 percent higher than the four-year average.

    As of January 2024, wages rates for both agricultural and unskilled/casual laborers remained unchanged, on average at the governorate level, compared to the same time last year. Given this and declining food prices over the past year, purchasing power in terms of the amount of basic food a laborer could buy per day’s work has also improved. However, many households are not able to benefit due to increased market reliance amid the ongoing assistance pause and high competition for limited income-earning opportunities. As of December 2023, an unskilled casual or agricultural laborer could earn enough to cover only 28-44 percent of the cost of the MFB after five full days of work (considered difficult given scarce income-earning opportunities) at prevailing wage rates and prices.

    Prior to the pause in WFP-provided humanitarian food assistance under the GFA program beginning in December 2023, around 55 percent of the population were beneficiaries, according to available information from the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster. Many poor households considered assistance to be one of their primary sources of food and income despite several iterations of assistance reductions in recent years. While the recent sorghum harvest and ongoing millet harvest is providing some temporary seasonal support, poor households who have lost humanitarian assistance are still facing increased market reliance. Additionally, increased market reliance among the general population across wealth groups is in turn reducing demand for non-essential goods and services; this and further disruptions to livelihoods due to insecurity in the Red Sea are expected to be constraining availability of already scarce income-earning opportunities, while competition for the limited opportunities has intensified. While the recently concluded sorghum harvest and the ongoing vegetable harvest (as well as the early mango harvest) are providing some seasonal income-earning opportunities, this is not enough to fill the gaps that households are facing, particularly among poor households dependent on wage labor and fishing and who were previously assistance beneficiaries. Given already depleted coping capacity, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist at the governorate level, though an increasing number of households are likely facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes.


    In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to this area of concern:

    • The seasonal harvest of vegetables and fruits will boost households’ access to income from agricultural labor opportunities from January to early May. In the June to September period, access income from agricultural labor will decline during the agricultural off-season, though harvesting of certain cash crops (fol flowers) will provide some opportunities in June and July. Availability of agricultural labor opportunities will likely be near average levels, declining during the agricultural off-season from June to September.
    • Due to expectations for persistent insecurity in the Red Sea, access to food and income from fishing will likely remain below average.
    • Staple wheat flour prices (imported) are expected to fluctuate but increase slightly overall over the projection period. Prices are expected to remain within the range of 300 to 430 YER/kg.
    • As in other SBA areas, the pause in humanitarian assistance is expected to be sustained throughout the projection period.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes 

    In the February to May period, poor households’ access to income is expected to increase with the seasonal harvest of vegetables and fruits and associated labor opportunities. This and increased social support during Ramadan will provide some important temporary support to poor households. However, these improvements will not be enough to fill gaps left by the pause in humanitarian food assistance, given the overall trend of declining income-earning opportunities as well as expectations of rising prices. By April/May, poor households will likely exhaust food stocks and resources received during Ramadan and the recent cereal harvest, with an increasing number likely to face widening food consumption gaps and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes given highly eroded coping capacity and limited ability to purchase food on credit. In the June to September period, access to income will decline further due to the agricultural off-season and reduction of agricultural labor opportunities, with a growing number of households likely to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Yemen Food Security Outlook February - September 2024: Despite seasonal improvement with Ramadan, food consumption gaps to widen, 2024.

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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