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Yemenis Sell Their Guns To Feed Their Families


As food prices spike, Yemenis are trading their personal arms for food supplies


Yemenis are selling weapons to buy food as supplies run low, food prices spike, and aid groups warn of an impending humanitarian crisis. Civilians in the midst of the country’s civil war are weighing their personal security needs against the threat of starvation, with one bullet costing the same as a kilogram of rice, and an AK-47 fetching enough money to buy 10 sheep.

Yemen was already one of the biggest arms bazaars in the world, where 60 million guns rest in the hands of a population of 25 million, but a Vocativ analysis reveals that Yemen’s gun market has become even more active as the conflict between Houthi rebels and Saudi-backed government forces stretches into its second week.

Vocativ contacted several arms dealers online who say demand for guns in Yemen’s capital of Sana’a has dropped significantly as locals have begun offloading their weaponry to pay for increasingly expensive food supplies, while the city continues to come under bombardment from Saudi-led airstrikes.

“No one is buying guns anymore, they prefer to buy food,” said one dealer who gave his name as Abdullah. He advertises his inventory on a Facebook page Guns Prices in Yemen 2. “There’s no demand for weapons,” he said. “People are hungry. They need food.”

Vocativ found another dealer who gave his name as Khaled, who says he’s an active duty soldier and was offering his own AK-47 for sale.

Local media in Yemen report that the price of flour has shot up by 30 percent since the airstrikes began. Today a sack of flour, approximately 25 pounds, now costs some 6,000 Yemeni Rial (US$28) – the same price as a full magazine for an AK-47. The cost of a kilo of rice is approximately one U.S. dollar – the price of a single bullet. One AK-47 can buy approximately 10 sheep.

According to ads published on Guns Prices in Yemen 2, the price of an American M-16 assault rifle ranges between US$3,200-US$4,500, while the price of an M-4 was approximately US$1,950. An AK-47 sells for between US$1,250-1,950.