For years, Yemen has been in the grip of what the UN says is the world's worst humanitarian disaster.
Angelina Jolie has flown to Yemen as a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Special Envoy "to help draw attention to the catastrophic consequences of the seven-year conflict on" the war-ravaged Yemen's residents. According to a press release from the UNHCR, the Academy Award winner's visit aims to "highlight the increasing humanitarian needs in Yemen and help mobilize urgent support for humanitarian work ahead of the annual High-Level Pledging Conference for Yemen on 16 March, and call for regional and international actors to commit to an end to the conflict."
UNHCR’s Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie, arrived in Aden, Yemen, determined to remind the world of the forgotten suffering of millions of people in Yemen. pic.twitter.com/CmggKMCUHE— UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) March 6, 2022
The 46-year-old updated her 12.4 million Instagram followers about the visit in a rising call to action on Sunday. "I've landed in Aden, to meet displaced families and refugees for UNHCR @refugees and show my support for the people of Yemen," Jolie captioned the post. "I will do my best to communicate from the ground as the days unfold. As we continue to watch the horrors unfolding in Ukraine, and call for an immediate end to the conflict and humanitarian access, I’m here in Yemen to support people who also desperately need peace. The situation here is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with one civilian killed or injured every hour in 2022. An economy devastated by war, and over 20 million Yemenis depending on humanitarian assistance to survive."
Jolie—who has long been an advocate for the people of Yemen—likened the country's years-long humanitarian crisis to the current crisis in Ukraine, urging compassion for those impacted by both conflicts. "This week a million people were forced to flee the horrific war in Ukraine. If we learn anything from this shocking situation, it is that we cannot be selective about who deserves support and whose rights we defend. Everyone deserves the same compassion," she wrote. "The lives of civilian victims of conflict everywhere are of equal value. After seven years of war, the people of Yemen also need protection, support, and above all, peace."
According to BBC, Yemen has been enduring a civil war since 2014 when the Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital, Sanaa, and much of the nation's northern area. As the Houthis—who champion Yemen's Zaidi Shia Muslim minority—attempted to take control of the entire country, Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was forced to flee to the south and then to Saudi Arabia. A Saudi Arabia-led coalition, backed with logistical and intelligence support from the US, UK and France, entered the war in 2015 to defeat the Houthis, end Iranian influence in Yemen and restore Hadi's government.
The U.N. refugee agency said it hopes that Angelina Jolie’s visit would draw attention to growing humanitarian needs in Yemen, the Arab World's poorest country, ahead of the annual High Level Pledging Conference for Yemen on March 16. pic.twitter.com/QuIgzHIR4O— 💙 Raquel 💛 (@eternallyraquel) March 6, 2022
While in the initial days of the war Saudi officials forecasted that it would last only a few weeks, what followed was seven years of military stalemate that has killed more than 150,000 people, including over 14,500 civilians. The conflict has also caused what the UN says is the world's worst humanitarian disaster as over 20.7 million—71% of the nation's population—are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance or protection for their survival. This includes 5 million who are on the brink of famine and almost 50,000 who are already experiencing famine-like conditions.
The feel-good Arab Spring of 2011 toppled a government in Yemen but the country is at war since then; leaving hundreds of thousands dead; 70% of the population in need of humanitarian help, and half children under age of 5 in malnutrition.— Yossi Gestetner (@YossiGestetner) March 6, 2022
According to the UN, about 2.3 million children under the age of five are acutely malnourished, including 400,000 who are at risk of dying without treatment. However, only half of the country's 3500 medical facilities are fully functioning and 20% of districts have no doctors, leaving almost 20 million people with no access to adequate healthcare. Furthermore, one out of every two people does not have access to safe drinking water. The COVID-19 pandemic made things worse with the government registering 9,800 confirmed cases and 1,880 deaths by the end of October 2021. The actual figures are thought to be much higher due to limited testing, delays in seeking treatment and the failure of the Houthis to report cases and deaths in areas under their control since May 2020.