Six days of intensified conflict in Yemen's capital that reportedly killed 230 people and injured over 400 has ended — at least for the last day, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in the war-ravaged country said Thursday.
Jamie McGoldrick told reporters at U.N. headquarters in a phone call from Sanaa that there had been no airstrikes or other military activity and "an intense calm has returned to Sanaa in the last day or so."
This has enabled civilians to venture out to seek supplies and help, though some fearing airstrikes are remaining indoors, he said.
U.N. teams, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other aid groups have also been able to move in small numbers around the city to assess the situation, he said.
McGoldrick called the humanitarian situation "desperate" and expressed hope that calls by U.S. President Donald Trump, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and others to Saudi Arabia to end its blockade of Yemen immediately will produce results.
"Progress has not been seen yet, but we hope that that advocacy and those strong messages will open up the port," he said.
McGoldrick said 15 ships with humanitarian aid and commercial cargo are in the Red Sea near the port of Hodeida waiting for permission to dock and unload.
Only two ships — one commercial and one carrying humanitarian supplies — arrived after the Saudi-led coalition said it was lifting the blockade, he said.
"We need all ports open for commercial and humanitarian goods to avert a desperate crisis," McGoldrick said.
He said over 22 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance and over 8 million are on the brink of famine.
The six-day upsurge in airstrikes and fighting was apparently sparked by the decision of Yemen's ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh to switch support from the country's Houthi Shiite rebels who control Sanaa to the Saudi-led coalition backed by the United States that supports Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Heavy clashes erupted last week between the Houthis and Saleh's forces, and Saleh was killed by Houthis on Monday for what they called "treason."
Saleh ruled Yemen for more than three decades until an uprising forced him to step down in 2012. He later allied with the Houthi rebels hoping to exploit their strength to return to power. That helped propel Yemen into the ruinous civil war that has spread hunger and disease among its 28 million people.
Saleh's death has thrown the three-year civil war in Yemen into unpredictable new chaos, and McGoldrick said the uncertainty "puts a lot of stress on people on a daily basis."