The conflict in Yemen continues and no quick end is in sight; despite six weeks of aerial bombardment, the Saudi-led coalition has not been able to dislodge the Houthis, and similarly the Houthis have been unable to gain any decisive advantage. A stalemate like this has the potential to drag on for months; threatening to worsen the already dire humanitarian crisis in the country. The Saudi Arabian offer of a week-long ‘humanitarian pause’ in the fighting to allow other countries and humanitarian agencies to bring in aid to the country is a welcome move, that may avert a nationwide food and fuel shortage –at least for a little while longer. Before we praise Saudi Arabia’s merciful character though, it must be remembered that it is the targeted bombing of airports, and the naval blockade imposed by the coalition that has lead to such a crisis in the first place. Moreover, the keyword in this ceasefire offer is “conditional”. For the ceasefire to be applicable the Houthis must cease all activities, even movement of troops, during this five day period. Having used a previous ceasefire to launch surprise attacks, the Houthi rebel’s cooperation remains an uncertain factor.
Regardless of this small period of goodwill and humanitarian concern, the day the ceasefire ends the bombings will continue with the same ferocity and recklessness; once more making ports and airports inaccessible. A week long reprieve in not nearly enough to address Yemen’s essential supplies shortage, which was already severe before the advent of this conflict. With time and compounding collateral damage, the humanitarian crisis will be exceeding the levels it occupies currently. The parties to the conflict must formulate an agreement that will ban hostilities near certain landing strips and airports, so a constant stream of aid can come to Yemen. It may not be able to stop the conflict but the United Nations can at least mediate a solution that saves Yemen from starvation.