Yemen has been described as an island – cut off from the world since a bloody civil war began in 2014 between Houthi rebels and the government of president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates around 2.4 million, or 10% of the country is displaced as a result making it one of the most disruptive conflicts in the world. However, its ‘island status’ refers also to the fact that it is one of the most under reported humanitarian disasters with almost no foreign journalists operating on the ground and severe restrictions to local media.
Some Yemenis are trying to overcome this blackout on social media but theirs is one of the poorest countries in the region and aside from regular power outages only 20% actually have access to the internet. However, the few images available to external audiences show horrific famine and complete destruction of a once proud and historically fascinating nation.
Many believe that the focus on Syria has consumed any appetite for covering conflict in the Middle East but another reality is that it’s a very difficult place to enter and operate in with the overall infrastructure strained to breaking point. Most possible routes in are generally considered unreliable and have included: Overland via Omani border (featuring a dangerous, 600 mile drive to cities in the West), with smugglers seeking to circumvent the Saudi-led naval presence (not advisable) or on one of the aid ships currently allowed passage, an option which has been closed altogether in recent months.
We get numerous requests to help journalists and film makers enter the country but with no safe way to do so we’re unable to engage. However, we have been working with a local fixer called Ahmed Baider to pull together a network of cameramen who can shoot on request. Ahmed runs Aden Tours, a company setup by his father 20 years ago to cater for tourists. When war came to the peninsula his in depth knowledge of the region meant he was perfectly placed to help journalists with their projects and before access to the country was closed to foreign media he was able to work with ITN, Vice, The Times and CNN.
“I have worked with him (… Ahmed Baider – Aden Tours) on two occasions in Yemen and I was extremely impressed with all aspects of his performance. I would go as far as to say he is one of the best fixers I have worked with in my twenty-odd years as a field-producer.” Paul Tyson – ITN
Now he’s helping clients distribute briefs to local professionals and get the material out after it’s shot. We recently completed a shoot in Taiz, Aden and Hajjah for the Arab Strategy Forum and are in discussion with several broadcasters. Using three different cameramen we were able to show a mixture of refugee camps, general destruction within the urban areas and the still functioning Port of Aden.
The situation in Yemen is desperate, and in dire need of exposure. Get in touch through worldfixer.com for enquiries.