The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels in Yemen announced a two week ceasefire in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the fragile Middle Eastern nation.
Many posit that the decision came in response to a global outcry for an international ceasefire. In a press conference held on March 23, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all parties across the world to lay down their weapons and focus on a common enemy: The spreading coronavirus.
The Saudi coalition spokesperson, Turki al-Malki, said that the temporary ceasefire might lead to a discussion between the two sides about a more permanent solution for the conflict.
Both the UN and Malki have expressed a need for a formal meeting between the Houthi rebels and the military team from Saudi Arabia.
The UN has also said that the global pandemic and a nationwide ceasefire should serve as an opportunity to permanently end all hostilities and work towards a sustainable peace.
Houthi rebels have expressed dissatisfaction in response to Saudi Arabia’s ceasefire announcement.
Houthi spokesman Mohammed al-Bukhaiti stated that the rebels will continue to fight unless a total end of the war is negotiated. Bukhaiti said that the Saudi-led coalition failed to disclose to the UN that they will still be using air power to enforce the blockade, which began in 2015.
The World Health Organization announced that the blockade of Yemen has resulted in widespread starvation, predicting that if the siege continues, it might lead to one of the deadliest famines in recorded history.
This puts Yemenis at further risk of devastation from COVID-19, given that their health care system is at the verge of collapsing, and cannot handle a major virus outbreak.