Living the CHS Commitments: Cordaid’s digital approach to communication, participation and feedback in Yemen

23 January 2024

by Inge Leuverink, Humanitarian Advisor, Cordaid & Pinar Okur, PhD, Head of Strategic Partnerships & Growth, Upinion

In an increasingly digitised world, humanitarian and development assistance can and should evolve to make the most of new opportunities. CHS Alliance member Cordaid, with partner Upinion, is pioneering an innovative digital platform to ensure its work is based on communication, participation and feedback in Yemen.

Eight years of conflict in Yemen has had a severe impact, with 60% of Yemenis needing assistance. The healthcare system has long been stretched thin, and the protracted conflict has compounded challenges in accessing health care, particularly for pregnant women and mothers.

Cordaid and our Yemeni partners Yamaan and Family Counseling & Development Foundation (FCDF) have long collaborated to improve access to important health services across the country. Throughout our programmes, we always aim to prioritise communication with and participation with the people in need of assistance. However, this poses specific challenges in Yemen, a vast country with gender norms that can restrict the movement and voices of women. To make sure their voices are heard and acted on, Cordaid engaged Upinion, a digital engagement platform, to digitalise their approach to communication, participation and feedback.

Women taking part in Cordaid’s project to overcome barriers to access mental health and psycho social support. Credit: Cordaid.

Participatory approaches create better services

Together, we employed Upinion’s mobile-phone based digital platform to bridge the gap between healthcare providers and the communities they serve. Through this platform, Yemeni women and men of reproductive age shared their feedback on (modern) family planning and the services available.

“As a result, healthcare providers adapted their services based on the messages received, making it a truly community-driven initiative. This participatory approach resulted in higher uptakes of maternal health services than in previous years, demonstrating the impact of user-friendly community engagement.”

Communities were brought on board in two ways: Upinion ran targeted Facebook ads in Yemen for women and men of reproductive age, leading interested individuals to participate anonymously. Cordaid’s partner Yamaan also conducted phone interviews for those unreachable online, uploading responses to Upinion’s platform.

Facebook page promoting Cordaid’s maternal health voucher program. Credit: Upinion.

During the project, COVID-19 hit Yemen, with people eagerly seeking information about the virus. The interactive platform was able to quickly send information to not only the pregnant women already involved in the project about potential implications of COVID-19 on their health, but also to 18,000 other people with information from the World Health Organization and other trusted service providers.

Co-design from the start

Building on the success of this platform, Cordaid, Yemeni organisation FCDF and Upinion are currently working on an e-health platform to make psychological information, counselling and assistance more accessible. The digital platform is being co designed with self-help groups of people with mental health problems in Yemen as well as the general population on how to decrease the stigma on mental health services. More than 4,000 people have so far shared their needs and ideas for a digital well-being platform.

Participants provided crucial insights, suggesting the most essential information and services they required, as well as how they preferred to receive and share information between text, video or audio. This input guided the creation of a prototype for the wellbeing platform. It is designed to be user-friendly, addressing the digital literacy barriers of specific groups to ensure accessibility for even those with limited digital skills seeking necessary support. We are now testing the prototypes with the self-help groups and the wider public in Yemen, so that we can adjust and then scale up.

Living the CHS Commitments

We are grateful to our national partners and every single person who helped to develop these new ways of engaging people we aim to assist in a meaningful way. We are proud to be better living out our CHS Commitments by building in co-design from the ground up and improving based on what we hear. We hope this example inspires others in CHS Alliance’s global community to grasp hold of the participation opportunities new technologies bring.

Learn how CHS Alliance supports members to become more accountable to those they serve.