‘Catastrophic hunger’: Charity urges truce extension in Yemen

Two-month truce is set to expire on Wednesday, prompting calls for an end to ‘the cycle of violence and suffering’.

Poor Yemeni families receive flour rations and other basic food supplies from charities
Yemeni families receive flour rations and other basic food supplies from charities, as food prices have doubled since last year [File: Saleh Al-Obeidi/AFP]

The international charity Oxfam has urged Yemen’s warring sides to extend a two-month truce, appealing to the parties to the conflict to work together to avoid “catastrophic hunger” in the war-wrecked country.

Oxfam said on Tuesday that the United Nations-brokered ceasefire is essential for millions of Yemenis suffering from a lack of basic services and soaring prices of food and other goods.

The charity’s Yemen director, Ferran Puig, said the truce has brought a “long overdue sense of hope that we can break the cycle of violence and suffering in Yemen”.

A Saudi-led coalition, the internationally recognised Yemeni government, and the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels agreed to a truce that started on April 2, which expires on Wednesday night.

“The opportunity must be seized to extend the truce and push for a lasting peace if we are to avert the risk of millions of Yemenis being forced into acute hunger,” Puig said.

More than three dozen aid groups working in Yemen have joined Oxfam’s appeal, saying in a joint statement addressed to the warring sides that “the gift for a better life for the people of Yemen is in your hands”.

The truce has been the first nationwide ceasefire in the past six years of Yemen’s civil war.

INTERACTIVE - Yemen war - key players in the current conflict
(Al Jazeera)

The fighting erupted in 2014 when Iran-backed Houthi rebels descended from their northern enclave of Sadah and took over the capital of Sanaa, forcing the government to flee. A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in early 2015 to try to restore the government to power.

In recent weeks, the UN envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, has intensified efforts to renew the truce. He tweeted on Monday that an extension was “critical to solidify benefits delivered so far and provide space to move towards a political settlement”.

However, Grundberg’s efforts have been hobbled by the Houthis’ refusal to lift their ground blockade of the largely government-held city of Taiz, Yemen’s third largest.

The provisions of the truce included reopening the roads around Taiz, establishing two commercial flights a week between Sanaa and Jordan and Egypt, and also allowing 18 vessels carrying fuel into the port of Hodeidah. Both Sanaa and Hodeidah are controlled by the rebels.

Fighting, air strikes and bombardment have subsided during the truce, which started in early April, and the rebels have ceased their cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the two pillars of the Saudi-led coalition.

The UN estimates that more than 377,000 people have died due to the conflict as of late 2021, adding that the war in Yemen has caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The UN has also warned that 19 million people of Yemen’s population of 32 million would face hunger in 2022, including 160,000 likely to suffer from “famine-like conditions”.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, as it hit global food supplies and sent food prices soaring. Yemen imports 90 percent of its food, including at least 42 percent of its wheat from Ukraine, Oxfam said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies