After a week of negotiations, the primary warring factions in Yemen’s civil war have agreed to a ceasefire in port city of Hodeidah, a critical juncture for the delivery and transport of humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations.
The ceasefire also includes the establishment of a humanitarian corridor in the city of Taiz, the country’s third-largest, and an exchange of prisoners.
“You have reached an agreement on Hodeidah port and city, which will see a mutual re-deployment of forces from the port and the city, and the establishment of a Governorate-wide ceasefire,” Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, said during the negotiations, which took place in Rimbo, Sweden, over the past week.
“This will facilitate the humanitarian access and the flow of goods to the civilian population. It will improve the living conditions for millions of Yemenis,” he said.
Since the war began four years ago, Yemen has become the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. More than 60,000 people having been killed since 2016, a large percentage of which have been citizens, including women and children who are often targeted in air raids by Saudi Arabia.
Throughout the country, 20 million people are food insecure, 10 million people are living meal to meal, and 85,000 children under the age of five have died of starvation.
The country is also facing the world’s worst cholera crisis, a waterborne disease that’s affecting more than 10,000 people per week. As far as water goes, Yemen faces chronic shortages as critical infrastructure and wells get bombed by the Saudi-led coalition.
The ceasefire, although only partial, has the potential to ease some of this suffering, according to the UN, and sets the stage for a more comprehensive peace framework.
“Any progress towards peace is good progress, as long as it helps the Yemeni people who have suffered so much in this conflict,” said David Beasley, World Food Programme executive director, in a statement.
“Today’s announcement gives us hope that the World Food Programme’s work to feed 12 million severely hungry Yemenis may be made easier in the coming weeks and months,” he added.
The ceasefire will be implemented within the next three weeks, and then UN peacekeeping troops will be deployed in Hodeidah to maintain order. Additionally, corridors for the delivery of food, medicine, and other critical resources are expected to be opened up.
Over the past four years, the war in Yemen has often failed to garner the international attention that nonprofits have demanded, but in recent months, the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi has spurred countries to scrutinize Saudi Arabia’s role in the country and its ongoing targeting of civilians. In particular, the US senate recently voted to stop abetting Saudi Arabia’s bombing of Yemen.
The new ceasefire will likely bring even greater scrutiny to Yemen, and could set in motion an end to the violence. Recovering from this catastrophe, however, will take years.
“Now it’s time for the UN Security Council to entrench the ceasefire agreement with a resolution,” Peter Salisbury, a Yemen expert at the International Crisis Group, wrote on Twitter. “There is no excuse for international inaction now, and this fragile moment must be protected.”