As the pandemic bore down, Saudi Arabia, which has poured tens of billions of dollars into the war to little tangible end, announced a unilateral cease-fire in Yemen in early April. But that has not prevented conflict from erupting in the weeks since, as the Houthis continue to mount attacks, a separatist group battles the internationally recognized government for control in the south, and bombs from the Saudi-led coalition keep falling.
Aid groups urged all sides on Tuesday to negotiate an end to the war — the only real hope of resolving Yemen’s many humanitarian crises. And critics of Saudi Arabia said the fortune it had spent on aid for Yemen, including the $500 million it pledged on Tuesday, meant little if it continued to bomb civilians and blockade supplies from reaching Houthi territory.
“Saudi Arabia keeps trying to whitewash its coalition’s role in the deepening humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, but co-hosting the funding event won’t fool anyone,” said Afrah Nasser, the Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch. The Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis, she said, “should immediately cease violating the laws of war and put an end to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen for which they’re all responsible.”
Jan Egeland, the secretary general of the Norwegian Relief Council, an aid group that works in Yemen, said that millions of Yemenis were “staring down the double barrel of starvation and a global pandemic.”
He urged donors to reach deep into their pockets, adding, “But money alone is not enough. These pledges are worth little if people are still fleeing from bombs and crossfire and their hospitals attacked.”
Even as he issued his appeal, the hostilities marched on.
On Monday, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Col. Turki al-Malki, said the Saudis had intercepted two Houthi drone strikes aimed at civilian targets across the border in Saudi Arabia. And on Tuesday, soon after Saudi Arabia trumpeted its hosting of the donor conference in a series of news releases, the Houthis said that Saudi Arabia had launched several airstrikes on its territory.
Nick Cumming-Bruce contributed reporting from Geneva, and Rick Gladstone from New York.