MERS battle: Camel imports face scrutiny
MERS battle: Camel imports face scrutiny
Any ban on the camel trade with the region would badly hurt the economy of Somalia, which is a major livestock exporter to Saudi Arabia.
Madani said scientists are currently testing camels at sea ports before authorities allow them in.
“We do have suspicions that the disease may have been imported through camel trade from the Horn of Africa, but we haven’t proved it yet,” Madani said.
He said the final decision on a ban on camel imports from the region lies with the agriculture ministry.
Madani said the ministry “hasn’t yet released an official ban for the importation of camels,” although colleagues there had told him such a move is “under consideration.”
He said: “We have always imported camels from the African Horn.... but we will stop that until we get more information on whether they are infected or not.”
Much more scientific research is needed to nail down the source of the MERS infections in humans and exactly how it makes the leap, but preliminary studies suggest the virus’ animal reservoir is likely to be camels.
“Since this is a zoonotic disease we are collaborating with the ministry of agriculture to answer the question of whether these camels imported from the African Horn are possible sources of infection,” Madani said.
Saudi Arabia is by far the biggest market for livestock from Somalia, with at least 70 percent of Somali exports going to the Kingdom.
Most exports go via two Gulf of Aden ports — Bossaso and Berbera — in two breakaway regions of northern Somalia, but the animals come from all over the country, with some arriving across porous borders with southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya.
Madani said that while Saudi Arabia does have some domestic camels, most of those used for meat and trade are imported from the Horn of Africa.
Lisa Murillo, an expert in virology and affiliate scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US, said she had analyzed data on human MERS cases in the Middle East and camel imports from the Horn of Africa — and found striking correlations that cry out for further investigation.
As a result of her findings, Murillo says she has developed what she acknowledges is a “very speculative hypothesis” — that the number of MERS cases in Arabian Peninsula countries is related to the number of camels imported into those countries.
“That correlation just leaps off the page,” she said.
“The most important thing we need to be doing right now — outside of Saudi Arabia and the UAE — is looking for human and camel cases of MERS in the Horn of Africa — particularly in the ports of Somalia,” she said. “If it turns out to be in camels there, why wouldn’t it be in humans there as well?“
Madani said teams of scientists working under his leadership at the CCC were doing exactly that in Saudi Arabia.
“As we speak we are doing a study on camels imported from the Horn of Africa,” he said.
“We are taking samples from them in the sea ports before they are allowed in, and we’re also taking samples from people handling them to test them for antibodies.”
Experts say that if Saudi Arabia does ban imports from Somalia, it could have a severe impact on the nation.
A previous Saudi ban on Somali livestock exports in 2000 — the concerns then was rinderpest and Rift Valley fever — hammered the economy before it was lifted in 2009. From 2 million head shipped in 2008, exports jumped to 3 million in 2009 and hit 4.8 million in 2012, according to an EU official.
Saudi Arabia witnesses unprecedented achievements one year after MBS became crown prince
- Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the architect of a wide-ranging plan for social and economic reforms known as Saudi Vision 2030
- Vision 2030 seeks to make Saudi Arabia non-oil based economy and the large developments at the Red Sea, Qiddiya and, NEOM, are part of the efforts to lure in investors and promote tourism sector.
JEDDAH: June 21 marked one year of Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince of Saudi Arabia.Since assuming the role, the crown prince, fondly known as MBS, has been working for the socioeconomic transformation of the Kingdom.
He is the architect of a wide-ranging plan for social and economic reforms known as Saudi Vision 2030, which aims to diversify the economy of the Kingdom and reduce its dependence on oil income.
Among the reforms envisaged in the Vision 2030 plan are the reopening of cinemas and allowing both sexes to attend concerts.
Another major development is the lifting of a ban on women driving. From June 24, women in Saudi Arabia will be able to take the wheel. The crown prince’s Vision 2030 reform plan seeks to elevate women to nearly one-third of the workforce, up from the current 22 percent.
In a statement issued to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that as the architect of Saudi Vision 2030, the crown prince was inspiring the country’s youth and introducing structural changes to the Saudi economy and society.
Al-Othaimeen said that in one year he had taken many important initiatives at the national and international level and reinforced Saudi Arabia’s leading role in defending and supporting issues related to the wider Muslim world.
In this area, the OIC chief said, the most notable achievement was the creation of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition.
Vision 2030 seeks to boost the Saudi non-oil based economy, and the large developments at the Red Sea, Qiddiya and NEOM, the futuristic mega city, are part of efforts to attract investors and promote the Kingdom’s tourism sector.
Saudi Minister of Telecommunications and IT Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawaha said that the Kingdom is geared up to achieve the goals of socioeconomic transformation as envisaged in Vision 2030. He said that during the last year Saudi Arabia had achieved great success in this ambition.
Civil Services Minister Sulaiman bin Abdullah Al-Hamdan said that last year was characterized by many achievements. The Kingdom, he said, witnessed the continuation of the successful implementation of the crown prince’s Vision 2030, which covers all aspects of life.
Saudi Education Minister Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Issa said: “Our country is looking forward to a bright future in line with an ambitious vision. It is standing at the threshold of great transformation.”
Saudi Arabia has also witnessed several unprecedented developments since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began implementing his reform plans. In a bid to ensure transparency in the financial system to promote international investments, the Kingdom launched a drive to root out corruption from society without discrimination.
Saudi Justice Minister Dr. Waleed bin Mohammed Al-Samaani, who is also president of the Supreme Judicial Council, said that the crown prince is a leader whose impact has surpassed local and regional levels. He has emerged as one of the most influential figures at the global level, he said.
Islamic Affairs Minister Dr. Abdulatif bin Abdul Aziz Al-Ashiekh said: “The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 is a comprehensive national development program that seeks to achieve prosperity for the country. The crown prince has worked very hard to achieve many goals in record time.
“The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has received a great deal of support and attention from the crown prince to help fight extremist and deviant ideologies.”
The minister said that these efforts come within the framework of Vision 2030 to eradicate all sources of corruption.
MBS’s history of philanthropic initiatives has earned him many awards. In 2011, he established the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Foundation (Misk), which enables young Saudis to learn, develop and progress in the fields of business, literature, culture, science and technology, and sociology.
“The crown prince’s initiatives in relief and humanitarian work have been admired and praised by the UN and its related organizations,” said Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, general supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief) and an adviser to the royal court.
Al-Rabeeah said that the crown prince had allocated $66.7 million to fight the cholera epidemic in Yemen, in addition to his efforts to help the needy throughout the world without discrimination.
He said that the crown prince had worked hard to build a new phase of progress and prosperity for the country with the help of the youth who are the core of the Kingdom’s future.
In recent years, the crown prince has become the government’s face of reform, modernization and change. In a country where about 60 percent of the population is under 30, the young crown prince is widely seen as an icon in the push toward socioeconomic reforms.
The crown prince also heads the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, which aims to establish a seamless mechanism to achieve Vision 2030 goals.