A ceasefire between the warring parties in Yemen, in place since April, has brought some respite to a people exhausted by eight years of war – Copyright AFP/File EVARISTO SA
As the deadline for a ceasefire in war-torn Yemen approaches, civilians are hoping the truce will be extended – fearing that further fighting could wipe out the small gains they have made.
In Sanaa, the rebel-held capital, Loujain al-Ouazir, an agriculture graduate, has worked for three years raising goats and poultry on a farm atop one of the iconic mud-brick tower houses of the ancient city.
Ouazir has only managed to make the farm prosper in recent months, as the truce has allowed goods to move more freely and lowered the price of supplies.
“Thanks to the truce, feed and fuel prices have come down,” Ouazir said.
The war in Yemen between Houthi rebels backed by Iran and a Saudi-led coalition has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and created what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
A UN-brokered ceasefire, which came into effect in April and has been renewed twice, has reduced casualties by 60% and quadrupled fuel imports into the rebel-held port of Hodeidah , more than 40 humanitarian groups said Thursday.
The truce largely held, although rival parties traded blame for violations.
On Friday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on each side to extend the ceasefire.
“I strongly urge the Yemeni parties not only to renew but also to extend the terms and duration of the truce,” his spokesman said in a statement.
– October 2 deadline –
Ouazir said the relative peace – especially the end of airstrikes in Sanaa – has created a safer environment for his milk and egg business.
“I hope the truce will continue until the war stops completely,” she said, adding that she dreams of expanding her farm “on the ground, not on the roof of the home”.
The truce is due to expire on Sunday, with the UN scrambling to ensure each side agrees to extend again.
As part of the truce, commercial flights resumed from the rebel-held capital Sanaa to Jordan and Egypt, while tankers were able to dock in Hodeidah.
The successive truces have brought some respite to a people exhausted by eight years of war, in a country where around 23.4 million of the 30 million inhabitants depend on humanitarian aid.
But there has been little fundamental progress toward peace.
A siege remains in place on Taez, Yemen’s third-largest city, controlled by the government but surrounded by Houthi forces.
Despite the ceasefire, the main roads in and out of the mountain town remain closed.
In the center of Taez, old vans are crowded with passengers who want to get to the nearby town of Al-Hawban, taking bumpy back roads through the mountains.
Before the war it was a mere 15 minute ride.
“Now I need four or five hours,” Taez resident Bassem al-Sabri said.
– ‘Moral imperative’ –
Diego Zorrilla, the UN’s deputy humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said the truce had improved the situation “in many ways” but “life remains difficult” for the vast majority.
“From a humanitarian point of view, renewing the truce on October 2 is a moral imperative,” Zorrilla said.
“Only a resolution of the conflict can enable the economy to recover, lift people out of poverty and reduce humanitarian needs.”
Talks to conclude a lasting peace agreement remain at a standstill.
In May, the UN envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, said the truce “presented a window of opportunity to break with the violence and suffering of the past”.
Analyst Thomas Juneau of the University of Ottawa said the truce had “fundamentally changed nothing” to the progress of the peace talks and was proving “a failure in some respects”.
“On the Huthi side, there is no serious will to negotiate and therefore compromise with the government,” Juneau said.
On the government side, differences between the multiple anti-rebel factions have deepened.
“We have seen the fault lines, which were very deep, widen, tensions deepen and in many cases turn violent,” he said.
For Juneau, there is an “absurdity in renewing a truce which does not work”, and which therefore only “delays the return” of violence.
But, he added: “I see no other alternative.”