Journalists routinely hitch rides on UN planes. If there is space on airlifts transporting humanitarian goods and personnel, the UN generally welcomes journalists to ride along and report on some forgotten humanitarian crisis. Such was the case last week when BBC journalist Orla Guerin and two BBC colleagues boarded a UN flight in Djibouti, destined for Yemen’s capitol city Sanaa.
Their plane never left the runway.
Sanaa is under the control of rebels fighting against the Saudi-backed government of Yemen. It is landlocked and there are no commercial flights flying to or from. These UN charters are the only way in and out of the city. When the Saudi-led coalition that controls the airspace over Yemen got word that a UN charter with three BBC journalists was going to fly to rebel controlled territory, they grounded the entire humanitarian airlift.
Nevertheless, she persisted.
We reached the Souther port of Aden after 13 hours at sea. Saudis grounded the #UN plane due to fly us in pic.twitter.com/hVAhdwWwu0
— Orla Guerin (@OrlaGuerin) July 27, 2017
What followed were a series of tweets and this powerful video documenting the suffering of Yemeni citizens–particularly children — who are caught in this conflict.
Yemen Twitter from Orla Guerin on Vimeo.
Yemen is the worst food crisis in the world today. Several provinces are one step away from a full blown famine. Meanwhile, a cholera epidemic is sweeping through the country. But you do not hear — or see — much about it in the news because the Saudi-led coalition (which receives support from the United States and several western countries) prevents journalists from reporting on the conflict.
Stories like this have the potential to alter the trajectory of a conflict to the extent that it stirs the consciousness of western audiences, whose governments are enabling this kind of misery. And if nothing else, this video is a powerful — and rare — testimony to the suffering that is happening in this conflict.
If you want to learn more about Yemen’s food crisis and conflict, listen to my interview of Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group