The United Nations on Thursday announced an “unconditional humanitarian pause” in the Yemen conflict starting at midnight local time Friday with the goal of getting all parties to stop the violence so that desperately needed food, water and medicine can be delivered to over 21 million people in the Arab world’s poorest country.U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was assured that Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and Shiite Houthi rebels support halting fighting through the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends July 17.
“We have the expressions necessary from all parties to announce the start of this pause on Friday, July 10th,” Dujarric said.
But at the same time U.N. officials hope that those commitments would result an actual cease-fire.
“Ultimately what we want is to be absolutely certain that the fighting stops,” U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told AP. “Now we need to make sure that they act upon those assurances and don’t actually have this be a pause in name only.”
A cease-fire could — at least temporarily — halt the raging months-old conflict that has devastated Yemen.
More than 3,000 people have been killed since March, when a Saudi-led and U.S.-backed coalition began launching airstrikes against the rebels who have been seizing control of the capital and other cities since September.
“It is imperative and urgent that humanitarian aid can reach all vulnerable people of Yemen unimpeded and through an unconditional humanitarian pause,” Dujarric said.
He said humanitarian agencies must be given unhindered access to all parts of the country, including through sea and airports.
According to the U.N. humanitarian office, there are over 21 million Yemenis in need of aid, representing 80 percent of the population, and millions of people “one step” away from famine.
Dujarric said if humanitarian agencies get access they plan to stockpile supplies throughout Yemen.