After War, Truce in Yemen Offers Hope
After more than seven years of war and what the United Nations described as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” a truce in Yemen offered respite to the millions affected by the conflict in April.
Yemen’s Civil War and its Effects
The roots of Yemen’s civil war extend back to 2012 when Yemen’s president stepped down due to the Arab Spring. The former president and his supporters joined forces with the Houthi rebels, a Shiite Muslim resistance group supported by Iran. The Houthi rebels attacked the Yemeni government in 2014, seizing Yemen’s capital. As a result of the Houthi’s assault, the new president fled to Saudi Arabia and a Saudi-led collation began military operations against the Houthi rebels. Both the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition have continued to attack each other for the past seven years and attempts by the United States and the U.N. to facilitate a diplomatic resolution to the conflict have proven largely unsuccessful.
The civil war in Yemen has had severe consequences for the Yemeni people. In 2021, the U.N. estimated that the death toll of Yemen’s civil war was approaching 377,000. The U.N. estimated that 60% of the deaths were the result of indirect effects of the war, such as lack of access to water, food or medical resources. The U.N. estimated that 70% of those who had died as a result of the conflict were children. In 2021, U.N. approximations showed that one Yemeni child died every nine minutes because of the war.
In addition to killing the Yemeni people, Yemen’s war has forced millions into extreme poverty and led to increased malnutrition. Due to the war, 15.6 million Yemeni people have fallen into extreme poverty and the number of malnourished people has more than doubled. The U.N. estimated that the war can cause an additional 8.6 million Yemeni people to become malnourished, including 1.6 million children by 2030.
After almost eight years of violence, on April 1, the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels signed on to a U.N.-brokered truce, that went into effect on April 2. The truce included an agreement to cease offensive military operations, an end to the Houthi blockade of fuel ships and the reopening of the government-controlled commercial airport in Yemen’s capital city, Sana’a. While the original truce was to expire on June 2, the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels agreed to extend the truce an additional two months until August 2.
As of July, the truce has resulted in more than a dozen commercial flights departing from the Sana’a commercial airport and more than 20 fuel ships entering Yemen’s Hudaydah port. Before the implementation of the truce in Yemen, the Yemeni government had not allowed commercial flights from the Sana’a airport for nearly six years.
In addition to reopening Hudaydah port to fuel shipments and reopening Sana’a airport to commercial flights, the truce has helped reduce violence between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels. By the end of April, the U.N. reported that airstrikes and drone and missile attacks had come to a complete halt. Before the treaty, the Saudi-led coalition engaged in more than 40 airstrikes a week on average and the Houthi rebels engaged in an average of four drone and missile strikes a week. Alongside the reduction in violence, the U.N. report on the first two months of the treaty found that those two months had the lowest fatality levels in Yemen since 2015. Fatalities due to civilian targeting had decreased by 50%.
Despite the success of the truce in Yemen, its implementation has met some challenges. The truce included an agreement to reopen streets in the Houthi-controlled city, Taiz, a goal that the warring parties have made little progress toward. Both sides have reported violations of the agreement to cease offensive military operations. Even taking the roadblocks into account, this truce represents an unprecedented step toward peace for Yemen.
– Anna Inghram