Updated Jan 15, 2021
Ongoing, armed conflict throughout Syria and Yemen, since 2011 and 2014 respectively, continues to plague the populace, making them vulnerable to risk of death, injury, and trauma. The situation in Syria is complex and fragile, as fragmented rebel groups and proxy warfare continue to operate into the foreseeable future: millions of people still live in significant swaths of the country not under Syrian Arab Republic Government (SARG) control. An estimated 3 million civilians in the north-western de-escalation zone remain at persistent, acute risk of death, injury, and trauma. According to the Violations Documentation Center in Syria, airstrikes have been the largest single cause of civilian death in Syria since 2014 and are responsible for 51% of all civilian casualties. This translates to the death of tens of thousands of civilians, first responders, aid workers, and children, as well as tens—if not hundreds—of thousands more injured. In Yemen, since the civil war began in 2014, when the Shiite Houthi insurgency took control of the capital, Sana’a, over 13,500 Yemeni civilians have been killed, with independent estimates raising the figure up to 50,000. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), estimates that more than 3 million Yemenis have fled their homes to elsewhere in the country, and 280,000 have sought asylum in other countries, including Djibouti and Somalia. Internally displaced Yemenis often must cope with a lack of food and inadequate shelter. Many Yemenis who have not fled are also suffering, especially those in need of healthcare , and now over 14M people are at risk of starvation. Across Yemen, aid organizations are facing major obstacles in helping Yemenis in need of food, medicine, and other essentials. From a severely degraded state security sector to a profound lack of communications and power infrastructure, there are a host of unmet citizen needs. There is massive demand for innovative security solutions benefitting civilians in fragile states such as Yemen and Syria but negligible supply, as well as situational awareness for local and global responders trying to help them. The lack of clear, structured ground-truth and the presence of conflicting narratives confounds efforts to ensure justice, hold actors accountable for their actions, and facilitate a genuine peace and reconciliation process in Syria and Yemen.
Hala believes there is a critical need to decrease civilian casualties, to reduce drivers of involuntary migration, to provide objective violence monitoring, to ensure accountability, and to rebuild civil society. For the past three years, Hala has worked to achieve just that- first in Syria and now in Yemen- via an end-to-end platform called Sentry. Sentry utilizes artificial intelligence, remote sensing, the internet of things, and distributed ledger technologies to save lives, monitor violence, document evidence of war crimes, and counter disinformation. Sentry was first launched in Syria in August 2016 as an early warning system for airstrikes against civilians in Syria. The system reaches an estimated 2.3 million civilians and to date, Sentry warnings are correlated with a mean reduction in casualties of 20% to 30%, translating to hundreds of lives saved and thousands of injuries averted. Using Sentry data, Hala has also issued 200+ reports on ceasefire violations and airstrikes to 24 stakeholder groups. This data has informed multiple reports by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.