Yemen: electricity blackouts crippling businesses
Many businesses have been crippled by the almost continuous power blackouts that are still afflicting Yemen. In Sana’a, the power is sometimes only on for one hour a day. For many businesses that require electricity, like ice cream shops, butchers and internet cafes, the blackouts mean they can no longer operate.
The frequent blackouts and use of generators have also caused damage to many sensitive electronic devices.
“Using a generator is one of the most common reasons for the breakdown of electronics, as people do not know how to use the generator,” said Ali Taher, an electronics engineer.
“People do not know that when the electric current returns it is not a stable 220 volts, and this causes breakdowns in some electronics. They should turn electronic devices off when the power goes off,” said Taher.
He added that many countries including America and Saudi Arabia have two lines, one that works with 220 volts and other with 110 volts. “This is very economical and could save 50 percent of the power, and most electronics work with it [110 volts]. The government should make such a system,” said Taher.
Aimn Ali Faqeer is the executive manager of the Alam Al-Asal honey shop in Hadda St. He say the blackouts affect the emotions of the customer, the seller, and the selling atmosphere.
“I cannot sell in the dark because most of our goods and honey must be seen. Even candles are inadequate, we cannot depend on them, said Faqeer.
“Honey shops have goods that must be kept in the fridge. Fortunately the weather in Sana’a is not too hot. But we have a treatment called Royal Jelly which is very expensive and must be kept in the fridge otherwise it will expire. It costs YR 50,000 a kilo, and we could lose YR 500,000 within 24 hours.
“Nowadays, I shut the shop early at 9pm. We used to close at 11pm, but because there is no power, there are no people on the street, and there is no work. It may not even be safe to stay open late. Blackouts have caused a 20 percent decrease in our work and salaries,” said Faqeer.
Medications like insulin and hormones need to be kept very cold, said Abdulgani Ali, a pharmacist in Hayaty Pharmacy. The pharmacies depend on patients from clinics, but unfortunately the clinic’s medical equipment have also been affected by the power blackout.
“When there is no electricity we take all the medications which need to be kept cold to any place that has a generator to store them”, said Ali.
Ali added that the military which take most of the government’s budget must protect the power stations from attacks. But it seems that the government is paralyzed and cannot do anything about the power crisis.
“We have closed the shop for three days and fired six employees,” said Shukri Al-Asadi, manager of the Snow Cream shop. Ice cream shops completely depend on having power for refrigeration, and are now continually loosing customers and income. The Snow Cream shop has a generator, but there is no diesel. If they find diesel on the black market, it costs five times as much as before said Asadi.
Saleem Al-Suhaibi, a university student, complains that there is no water in the tank of his house because the pump has broken down. His brother went to repair the pump but it cost YR 6,000, half the price of buying a new pump.
“Thank God we do not have problems with money. The problem is that other people do not have money. What could they do in such a situation?”, said Al-Suhaibi.