Norwegian fish flying onto Saudi tables

Norway ambassador Oyvind Stokke
Updated 16 October 2019

Norwegian fish flying onto Saudi tables

  • Ambassador Oyvind Stokke: Worldwide seafood exports were an important part of Norway’s blue economy and the country was also contributing to a positive trend of healthier lunches and dinners among Saudis

RIYADH: Norwegian salmon sales to the Kingdom have risen to $27 million this year, a 50 percent increase from the previous year, the country’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia has said.
Oyvind Stokke said that Norway’s salmon producers had sold 3.33 tons of salmon to Saudi Arabia in 2019, up from 2.3 tons last year.
“The increase in value has an even greater effect, from $18 million in 2018 to $27 million so far in 2019. Now, the sales of other seafood products like mackerel, are increasing in Saudi Arabia and I am very happy to see this development,” the ambassador told Arab News.
Worldwide seafood exports were an important part of Norway’s blue economy and the country was also contributing to a positive trend of healthier lunches and dinners among Saudis, he added.
“There is a shift going on in people’s food and eating habits. In that respect I look forward to receiving two Norwegian business delegations in the coming weeks.”
The 38th International Agriculture, Aquaculture and Agro-Industry Show in Riyadh, which is being held from Oct. 21 to Oct. 24, is hosting Skretting, Smart Farm, Green Cap, Innovation Norway and other firms, the ambassador said.
Visitors to the Saudi Horeca Exhibition in Riyadh, which is being held from Nov. 26 to 28, can get to know brands and organizations such as Norsk Sjømat, Salmar, Sekkingstad, Ocean Quality, Coast Seafood, Hofseth International, Kulinarisk Akademi, Coldwater Prawns of Norway and the Norwegian Seafood Council.
“Our aim is to show Saudis how to prepare and cook seafood in new ways,” Stokke said. But while the seafood export sector is booming, the tourism industry has yet to take flight.
There were a small number of Saudi visitors to Norway compared to other European destinations, but that number was steadily increasing, the envoy said.
“So far this year, 40 percent more Schengen visas to Norway have been issued. I welcome all Saudis to Norway, tourists, businesspersons, students or researchers.”
He said that while Norway may seem far away and that its climate could be a challenge, its environment was pure, clean, fresh and healthy.
“Some Norwegian travel agencies and (representatives from) destinations will visit the Kingdom in the coming months to meet with representatives of the outbound Saudi tourism sector,” he said, adding that this cooperation would draw attention to new attractions and hidden gems awaiting Saudi travelers.


Saudi Arabia delivers ‘early warning’ on preterm births

Updated 21 November 2019

Saudi Arabia delivers ‘early warning’ on preterm births

  • Cost of care, long-term health issues a challenge for hospitals, says expert

JEDDAH: Up to 60,000 babies are born prematurely every year in Saudi Arabia with hospitals in the Kingdom spending up to SR60,000 ($16,000) on individual treatment and specialized care, a leading pediatrician told Arab News.

Dr. Sawsan Hussein Daffa, consultant neonatologist and head of pediatrics department at the Aya Specialist Hospital, said that the Saudi Ministry of Health is working to ensure premature infants get the best medical help possible, in addition to assisting families, despite the high cost.

“Premature births can cost hospitals and insurance companies as much as SR100,000 ($26,667),” she said. “Services provided to care for premature babies can cost hospitals SR50,000-60,000 during the infant’s stay.”

Daffa was speaking after World Prematurity Day on Nov. 17.

Any child born before 36 weeks of the gestational age is called premature.

“The particularly small babies are placed in incubators for a period of time ranging from 30 to 60 days. This can cost government hospitals/insurance companies around SR60,000. Some others are placed there for longer periods and can even cost SR100,000,” she said.

However, the consultant said that up to 28 percent of premature babies die due to complications.

The Saudi Health Ministry’s website said that some preterm births are likely to have more health problems than babies born on time. “These may face long-term health problems affecting the brain, lungs, hearing or vision.”

“One of the most life-threatening problems is respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), which can cause babies to need extra oxygen and help with breathing. RDS occurs when there is not enough surfactant in the lungs. This substance, made by the lungs, keeps the airways open and helps babies breathe,” she said.

Daffa said that a baby with RDS is usually kept on a respiratory machine and receives surfactant.

“Premature babies are put in incubators until they are 1.8 to 2kg. This normally needs a month or two. Sometimes, they are placed there for three months depending on the weight of the premature child when they were born. The less they weigh, the more time they need to spend in the incubator,” she said.

Daffa said that World Prematurity Day was first celebrated 11 years ago in Italy when the families of premature infants gathered. “It has been celebrated yearly since then,” she said.

“It is an occasion during which physicians work on promoting awareness among families, especially pregnant women, to prevent preterm births. It is also a chance to spread awareness as to how to help premature babies avoid diseases.”

The consultant said that a premature baby grows differently from a full-term baby in their early years.

“These babies may start walking later than their peers. Sometimes complications can affect their brains and thus, they join school late, too,” she said. But she said that by the age of 10 their development was similar to that of other children.

The neonatologist advised parents of premature children to attend events to help their children avoid complications.

“Pregnant mothers should follow up with their doctors to detect problems early and find solutions. They should also follow a diet rich in proteins, folic acid and minerals,” she added. 

Daffa said a special vaccine given to premature babies could protect them against the respiratory syncytial virus, which normally hits premature infants from October to March.

According to a 2018 report by the World Health Organization, more than 60 percent of preterm births occur in Africa and South Asia, but preterm birth is a global problem. In lower-income countries, on average 12 percent of babies are born too early compared with 9 percent in higher-income countries, the report said.

Within countries, poorer families are at higher risk, it added.