"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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