The spreading coronavirus pandemic has certainly been something that has left just about everyone searching for answers and questioning what should be done. It has been an event that has shutdown economies, countries, and now it has shut down a major conflict in the middle east, for now. The Saudi-led coalition that was fighting the Houthi rebels in Yemen has declared a two week ceasefire in efforts to hopefully contain the spread of COVID-19 in the war torn country of Yemen. The ceasefire was set to begin on thursday according to the Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Malki. The conflict had been raging on for over 5 years now. The Saudi Press Agency said that the move was likely prompted by the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ call for a halt to the hostilities in the country in order to hopefully counter the ever-growing spread of COVID-19. According to Johns-Hopkins University the virus has infected over 1.5 million people worldwide and killed over 88,000. Malki also spoke of hopes that the cease fire would help to segway into talks between the Saudi backed government in Aden and the Iraqi backed Houthi rebels in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. The cease-fire would hopefully create an environment where the United Nations could hold a meeting between the legitimate government of the Houthis and a military team from the Saudi-led coalition under the supervision of the United Nations to discuss steps to a permanent ceasefire in Yemen. The United Nations was excited to welcome the announcement of the Saudi’s. Martin Griffith, the Special Envoy of the Secretary General of Yemen, said “I am grateful to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Arab Coalition for recognizing and acting on this critical moment for Yemen. The parties must now utilize this opportunity and cease immediately all hostilities with the utmost urgency, and make progress towards comprehensive and sustainable peace.” A spokesperson for the Houthi rebels also said that the group was looking for a way to end the war, meaning that both sides are shifting their agendas amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Mohammed Abdel Salam tweeted saying that “Building on the call of the United Nations Secretary-General for ceasefire in Yemen, we have put forward a comprehensive national vision to the United Nations that includes a comprehensive end to the war, and a complete end to the blockade.” The civil war in Yemen has lasted years and has resulted in mass starvation and disease outbreaks among the people.
The war in Yemen has resulted in so much pain and suffering between the Saudis and the Houthi rebels for years now, so it is interesting to investigate exactly why the sudden halt to the ceasefire. Conflict in Yemen has been severe and showed no signs of slowing down until now. It has taken until now for the conflict to be seen as something possibly unnecessary. Natural disasters or pandemics in this case have tremendous effect on government functionality and political schemes. The principle of a larger evil pulling enemies together is eminent in the ceasefire of Yemen. According to the National center for Biotechnology Information, pandemics require the help and cooperation of all members of society, starting with the government. In the case of Yemen, war is expensive and requires a lot of manpower, but a pandemic requires even more money and manpower. The larger imminent threat takes precedence over the current war at hand because the possibility remains that all, ally and enemy, may die amidst the pandemic. Governments must be prepared for situations of global catastrophe, although they appear unlikely and cryptic. The current situation of COVID-19 is still largely foreign territory to the majority of the population. Oftentimes disasters take precedence over the current situation resulting in unexpected and rash changes in relations amongst countries. This helps explain the ceasefire in Yemen, and the possibly even shakier relations between America and China following the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only must the government be prepared, but according to USA.gov, each citizen must begin taking matters into their own hands and turn all effort and resources to preparation and prevention. It is almost impossible for any people or government to fight a war against man and also against a pandemic. Such an idea would result in great defeat in both. It is upsetting that such conflicts or such disagreements as the war in Yemen seem to find their only solution to be an even worse “war.” Nations quickly push aside their most prominent personal interests amidst such a pandemic, but only amidst a pandemic. It is interesting to consider why governments do not search for solutions with enemies before a larger issue grows. It has taken the conflict in Yemen until now, months into the pandemic, for action to begin to be taken. It is interesting to consider, why do governments wait until the situation appears out of hand, or to be a global catastrophe before putting aside wars or political bias? Is it because groups have become so polarized in their views? Or could it be that nations want to attempt to conserve normal life as long as possible?
1“ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES IN PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE.” Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response: A WHO Guidance Document. U.S. National Library of Medicine, January 1, 1970. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK143067/.2 “Emergency and Disaster Preparedness.” USAGov, n.d. https://www.usa.gov/prepare-for-disasters.