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Violence Reported During Yemen's Humanitarian Ceasefire


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep. We're going to get a sense now of what a cease-fire looks and feels like in Yemen. It's a humanitarian cease-fire in the conflict between Houthi rebels who've captured the capital of Yemen and the government supported by neighboring Saudi Arabia, among other countries. That cease-fire was supposed to start on Tuesday. We have reports that it's not so much of a cease-fire. We're going to check in now with a representative of Doctors Without Borders, which is working in Yemen. The representative's name is Andre Perache. He's in the capital of Yemen, Sanaa, and he's on the line. Welcome to the program, Sir.


INSKEEP: Does it seem like a cease-fire where you are?

PERACHE: Well, there's been a cessation of the aerial bombardments that were being carried out throughout the country for this past period of time. And it seems that in some areas, there is less fighting on the ground, but it's not entirely without fighting still given that the frontlines of the conflict really stretch throughout the southern part of the country.

INSKEEP: OK, so there's still fighting going on on the ground, at least some fighting. We should remind people that you're in the capital, Sanaa, which has been controlled by Houthi rebels for quite some time. What has life been like in the last few days in the capital?

PERACHE: Well, I think what's more important in the last few days is just this entire period of time leading up to this cease-fire which began on Tuesday night at 11, and that is that the capital has been heavily affected from their campaign that was underway as well as from these fuel shortages due to the blockade that's outside on fuel provision.

Many of the hospitals here are struggling to keep their generators running, to keep emergency support services functioning in the hospitals as well as other bits of essential infrastructure, such as the water pumping stations which also rely on fuel. Since these last few days, I think everyone's waiting and really hoping that some - that this will last and that this hopefully will extend beyond this period of time because it's beyond a humanitarian situation here in the sense that there's some people trapped who need provisions of aid. It's really a situation that's affecting the entire country and the entire country's infrastructure.

INSKEEP: You know, let me ask about two layers of this. On one level, of course, this is simply a civil war between different groups within the borders of Yemen. We've heard how that plays out with armed groups. What about among ordinary civilians, people you talk with? Are there divided loyalties and people suspecting each other?

PERACHE: There's really nothing ever simple about this civil war. Alliances and loyalties, you know, stretch beyond the big lines of a conflict that are generally most understood. But what always happens in these situations, from my experience, is that there's - most of the people don't have any desire to be stuck in the fighting, but they simply have no choice. This is definitely the case here in Yemen right now.

INSKEEP: So how's the cease-fire supposed to work, and what're groups like yours doing in this situation?

PERACHE: Well, what's happening now with aid doctors is that they are trying to organization the aid that they have recently brought in for onward distribution out throughout the rest of the country. What's important is that with the pressure on the infrastructure in the country mainly due to the fuel blockade, that aid alone is not going to be enough to solve the situation, and five days for cease-fires is not going to be enough to really make a difference in the lives of ordinary people who are trapped in this conflict.

INSKEEP: You need more time.

PERACHE: We need more time, and this country needs to be able to reestablish its vital infrastructure. Otherwise, humanitarian aid is just not going to solve the problem.

INSKEEP: You're pointing out that there's only so much that a group like yours or others can do. What you need is a functioning government.

PERACHE: No. What we need is a functioning infrastructure for the population to survive. Without fuel, the pumping stations for water provision don't operate. Without fuel, generators that run hospitals and operating rooms don't operate. Without fuel, people in Yemen won't be able to access a hospital or the marketplace if they live, you know, some kilometers away from the centers that they need to reach. It's really beyond whether the government is functioning or not. It's that the vital infrastructure that this country counts on to function is no longer able to work well.

INSKEEP: We've been listening to Andre Perache of Doctors Without Borders. He's in Sanaa, Yemen. Thanks very much.

PERACHE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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