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Humanitarian Cease-Fire Brokered in Yemen Will Last Through End of Ramadan

Yemen's exiled government and the Houthi rebels controlling the country's capital have reached a temporary cease-fire to accommodate for much-needed humanitarian assistance.

Yemenis gather near the rubble of houses near Sanaa Airport on March 31, 2015 which were destroyed by an air strike as Saudi-led coalition warplanes hit Shiite Huthi militia targets across Yemen overnight, targeting the group's northern stronghold of Saadeh, the capital, Sanaa, and the central town of Yarim, residents and media said. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS        (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Yemenis gather near the rubble of houses near Sanaa Airport on March 31, 2015 which were destroyed by an air strike as Saudi-led coalition warplanes hit Shiite Huthi militia targets across Yemen overnight, targeting the group's northern stronghold of Saadeh, the capital, Sanaa, and the central town of Yarim, residents and media said. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)

After more than three bloody months of airstrikes in Yemen, a humanitarian cease-fire deal has been brokered between the country’s exiled government and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels controlling the capital of Sanaa.

The cease-fire, which was announced by the United Nations Thursday, will start at midnight local time Friday and last through the last day of the holy month of Ramadan, which is expected to end on July 17.

U.N. spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said Thursday that the pause in fighting will be “unconditional.”

“It is imperative and urgent that humanitarian aid can reach all vulnerable people of Yemen unimpeded,” he told reporters at the U.N. headquarters Thursday.

Since late March, a Saudi-led airstrike campaign has been bombing Houthi strongholds in Yemen in an effort to dismantle the rebel group that forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh. The Houthis have ties to Iran, and Saudi Arabia’s Sunni rulers fear that a Houthi-dominated Yemen would bring Iranian-allied forces to their doorstep.

Riyadh has come under fierce outside criticism for bombing civilian areas and using needlessly heavy weaponry. Since late March, more than 3,000 Yemenis have been killed, half of them civilians, and more than a million have fled their homes. A blockade on international aid means the country has spiraled into a full-blown humanitarian crisis.

In April, U.N. refugee chief António Guterres said Yemen was “going completely down the drain.”

By May, a five-day cease-fire between the rebels and the displaced government put a temporary hold on the airstrike campaign, giving aid groups the opportunity to deliver much-needed assistance. According to U.N. data, 21 million need urgent help, and close to 13 million cannot access the food they need. Although aid workers delivered thousands of tons of food, medical supplies, and other necessities during the May cease-fire, those few days of efforts were unable to reach all those in need. In recent months, only 4.4 million have received the aid they need.

And it doesn’t help that funding for the crisis continues to fall extremely short, with the U.N. having received only 13 percent of its $1.6 billion request.

Saudi Arabia, despite leading the airstrikes that are contributing to the humanitarian disaster, has not yet materialized on any of its $274 million pledge.

Photo credit: MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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