The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Under the risk of a Covid-19 outbreak, the young men and women working in Palm Media are raising awareness and combating misinformation within the community in response to the pandemic.
“Palm Media was established in 2018” said its founding member Yehia Zain Eldeen. “ We have TV, news and film production agencies. My experience has led me to the idea of establishing a company specialized in the production of digital content in Gaza. We started off with one room and two partners, but now we are renting a flat and have ten employees”.
After its establishment, the company was incubated through the START incubation programme for creative entrepreneurs who want to establish successful companies. START is being implemented in partnership with the University College of Applied Sciences Incubator (UCASTI) with funds from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Palm Media is one of 18 start-ups incubated during the START project between 2018-2019.
“With US$3,500 we were able to buy a new camera that would facilitate livestreaming. The support provided increased our capital from only US$6,000 to US$30,000 and enabled us to expand our business further”, said Yehia. Palm Media’s business depends on creating and covering activities. They provide a full package; content development from scratch, design, livestreaming, social media and photography. Because of increased demand and the need for alternative filming locations in Gaza, they started building their own studio prior to COVID-19 for inhouse livestreaming and programme recordings.
“Our schedule was fully booked for the month of March, but as soon as the state of emergency was declared due to the pandemic, most of the activities were either cancelled or postponed. We were worried that this would threaten the company’s sustainability”, Yehia added.
Most of the organizations transferred their conferences, meetings and events to virtual sessions under the precautionary measures announced in Gaza. Therefore, the company took the lead in providing livestreaming and interactive services in their studio. They also went further by launching their own show – Rosheta (Prescription). The programme aimed at raising awareness among the community on COVID-19, bringing information on symptoms and prevention as well as interviewing medical staff and sharing their expert opinions. Rosheta’s episodes were not only health related. They covered the impact of Covid-19 on the economy and unemployment in Gaza, media’s role during Covid-19, fighting rumours and misinformation and mitigating their negative impact on people.
When preparing for the episodes, the team’s starting point is the identification of the most needed / relevant topics and drafting the content. This is followed by the marketing and digital production departments packaging the materials for audience consumption and finally livestreaming it through the various platforms, with followers reaching almost half a million.
“We could have been sitting down doing nothing in the face of the pandemic, but we wanted to contribute to our community by helping other organizations continue their work and spreading the word not the virus for life to go on in Gaza,” Yehia added.
In the face of socio-economic hardships in Gaza, and the COVID-19 pandemic, the partnership between UNDP and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation yielded in job opportunities for over 2,620 youth (40% women) and the establishment of 140 start-ups. With three years of continued support and a US$5.7 million investment, 872 youth joined employability projects in health, education, agriculture, administrative support; 300 youth supported the development of a GIS system in ten municipalities (62,000 building mapped); and 538 young men and women joined TVET trainings, including 198 persons with disabilities.