This Tuesday at midnight a ceasefire was meant to come into effect between Saudi-led pro-government forces and Houthi rebels in Yemen’s port city of Hudaydah. Unfortunately, the agreement only lasted a few minutes as sporadic fighting started throughout the city. The ceasefire agreement was made last Thursday at United Nations-sponsored peace talks in Sweden, which assigned UN officers to Hudaydah to oversee its ratification. UN News claimed that this deal would have “potential to restore humanitarian lifeline to millions.” This is as Hudaydah is a port city and a critical entry point for humanitarian aid.
Sadly, the end to the ceasefire could be foreseen as the effective date had already been pushed back once. In fact, the agreement was meant to commence immediately after the diplomatic talks, however, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani declared that the halt would begin at midnight Monday. Later, an anonymous UN official revealed to AFP that the ceasefire would be pushed further back to midnight Tuesday due to “operational reasons.” On Sunday, the Saudi-led military conducted 7 airstrikes and bombed the region 50 times. According to a pro-government military source, at least 29 fighters were killed in Hudaydah this Saturday. It is no surprise that adjusting the ceasefire date did not achieve anything.
Following the diplomatic talks in Sweden, the two sides agreed to meet again in January to create a more comprehensive peace plan. However, Yemeni people desperately need a prompt resolution as they are heading towards the greatest humanitarian crisis of 2019. The death toll has already reached 10,000 according to the World Health Organisation, and UN Chief Antonio Guterres has already warned that much more will lay in store if a peace agreement is not found soon. Almost 400,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition and 16 million people do not have drinkable water. The situation will not improve soon as long as the supply of food and other supplies to Hudaydah is disrupted. As a result, many will suffer.
A huge flaw is clear from this attempt to establish a truce. There is a lack of coherence between the diplomatic officials negotiating and developing these peace plans and the people actively participating in the conflict. If we want a successful ceasefire agreement and peace plans to end the crisis, there needs to be participation not just from high-level officials but also the people on the ground truly affected by the Yemen conflict.