"Every hour, 1 person dies in Yemen because of cholera."
"Every 10 minutes, a child dies from preventable causes."
Often times, people see headlines like this and feel immense sadness but don't know how to move forward. The situation in Yemen is overwhelming and quite daunting to even the most seasoned of ears. Anytime we, the Innovative Yemen team, discuss the crisis with non-Yemenis who aren't aware of the situation, we're met with shock and confusion and genuine concern for the people in Yemen. We wanted to translate that into action and that's where the 'hackathon' idea came up.
Basically, a hackathon is an event that's intense and fast paced where participants have to work together to solve problems, creatively. The hackathon focused on cholera and consisted of 3 sessions.
The first session was when subject matter experts weighed in on the situation live via Skype from different areas in Yemen. The 9 subject matter experts spoke about an array of different subjects including sanitation, awareness, prevention, city updates, government response etc. From 9:30 am - 12 pm, the participants got a comprehensive report with the latest updates from the different entities tackling cholera.
Dr. Abdulhakeem Alkohlany, from Relief and Sustainable Humanitarian Development (RSHD), started the talks by providing the latest statistics for perspective and then discussing the government response. Marije Broekhuijsen, the Yemen Water and Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Cluster Coordinator, gave an overview of the situation and walked the participants through the WASH Cluster response. From Albayda, Adel Salah discussed how National Foundation for Development and Humanitarian Response (NFDHR) is dealing with the outbreak and the success that they had in certain areas. From Al-Hudayda, Shohd Taher discussed the situation in one of the most affected areas and how Yemen Act is responding to the crisis. Covering the response across Aldhale'e, Sana'a, Taiz, Lahj and Aden, Dr. Sunita Sharma from International Medical Corps, IMC, gave the participants an idea about how the outbreak is affecting most of the country in various ways. Dr. Abdulfattah Almahdi and Dr. Amatullatief Abotalib from RSHD discussed the response in Dhamar and the epidemic surveillance.
The second session was a brainstorming session where the participants were able to digest and discuss the speaker's talks and organize their thoughts. We also noticed most of them pulled out their laptops and started researching some of the organizations and the projects running in Yemen. Here the participants started formulating different approaches to help alleviate the cholera outbreak.
The third session was a chance for the different groups to present their ideas and for the rest of the participants to chime in and ask questions about the varying proposals.
People were engaged, actively seeking solutions and will probably never look at a news headline about the humanitarian crises the same way again. We wanted to start engaging the different sectors like civil engineering or science and bring them together for one day to dissect the problems we have at hand. The event was not about inventing something groundbreaking, the event was about raising awareness and connecting people with entities in Yemen where they feel their knowledge and expertise can add value.
Although it was a 1 day event, there is a follow up plan to keep the ball rolling. Each team agreed on a project leader who would work on further articulating their solutions and working with Innovative Yemen on presenting their final presentations and pitch documents. The teams can then be connected with local agencies to seek the application of such ideas.
Bringing together the diversely experienced speakers to effectively discuss the situation with a group of participants from different backgrounds is one example of how we want to attract the right attention to Yemen.
Educate. Engage. Empower.
We'd like to thank the participants, the speakers from Yemen, Generations For Peace for hosting us and Dr Majdi from Bab Alyemen Alsaeed Restaurants for shouldering all catering costs.
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On Sunday the 6th of August, 2017, The Yemeni Film Days in Amman at the Royal Jordanian Film Commission kicked off. Innovative Yemen contributed to this event that brought together people from different backgrounds and nationalities to watch and discuss films produced in Yemen and about Yemen.
About the films:
Two films directed by Sara Ishaq were screened. Karama Has No Walls and The Mulberry House revolving around the 2011 revolution in Yemen, highlight some of the things that Sara and other filmmakers faced during that time.
Karama Has No Walls is an eyewitness account of the Friday of Karama, in the capital city, Sana'a, from the lens of two cameramen. The Mulberry House is about Sara and her family. Sara Ishaq is a Yemeni filmmaker who grew up in Yemen but moved to Scotland at the age of 17. Ten years later she returned to Yemen, only to find herself caught up in the protests and documenting the revolution.
After the films, there was a brief Q&A session, and Sara took the opportunity to talk about her new social enterprise, Comra. Comra is based in Yemen, and it aims to educate and empower Yemeni filmmakers.
From the Comra team:
"Having worked together as independent filmmakers for years, our team finally decided to join forces this summer and become Comra Films. Since 2011, we have collaborated on a plethora of films: a few you may not know about, some award-winning ones, and others that have screened internationally on TV, at festivals, conferences or educational institutions.
Moreover, through our ever-evolving film-training program, we have had the pleasure of meeting and collaborating with some of Yemen's most exciting new talent, amassing an unrivaled, burgeoning network of freelance media & film professionals from across the country.
Our goal and purpose is to foster the essence of Yemen's cultural identity through our films; to promote Yemen's next generation of filmmakers and to continue to shed light on the most pressing issues our country faces every day.
We cordially invite you to check out our website www.comrafilms.com to learn more about our work, team or to get in touch! "
The RFC featured a series of short documentaries. Four of which were products of the Comra camp that took place in Yemen this year. The 5th documentary is called Departure by Yemeni Ibbi Ibrahim and Jordanian Hosam Omran that highlighted the stories of two Yemen women who were stranded outside of Yemen when the war started. The 6th was produced for FRONTLINE TV by filmmaker Martin Smith and producers Sarah Obeidat, a Jordanian, and Michelle Mizner who were the only journalists allowed in Yemen.
The film ‘A New Day in Old Sanaa’ by Bader bin Hersi is a romantic tale about a young man Tariq torn between marrying his fiancé who he doesn’t know and marrying a girl he fell in love with and risk alienating his family.
Socotra: The Hidden Land by Carles Cardelús was featured. It’s about the island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean.
“This film tells the story of an extraordinary land that is only now coming to light. Every step on this unique island brings another discovery, and to visit its otherworldly landscapes is to cross a frontier in time and embark on an unforgettable voyage into the unknown that can never be repeated.”
The documentary focuses on the Socotri people, the different beliefs and social structures of the people and life in general for those Yemenis that even most Yemenis don’t know about.
The outcomes are far greater than we had anticipated. The turnout was absolutely incredible; it far exceeded our expectations and the support was overwhelming. People from all walks of life and of different nationalities attended and each person learned something different about one of the most misunderstood and underrepresented Arab countries.
The most important thing to us were the dialogues that erupted because of this. More people feel connected to Yemen, more people know about the devastating humanitarian crisis and more people have reached out to us asking to assist in anyway possible. This is why we’re doing what we’re doing. People can’t help what they don’t understand and we hope that with every everything we do, we educate others about Yemen, what Yemen can offer and what Yemen needs.
Amman is a wonderful city to be in for a plethora of reasons including the fact that the many different Arab cultures are celebrated and embraced here.
We hope more people will discuss Yemen and understand that they can help as well, if even by word of mouth.
Of course none of this would have been possible if not for the Royal Film Commission and their support. Check out their page for upcoming events and film screenings:
To read more about the documentaries and the film week, follow this link: