Saudi aid agency reveals plan to support health sector in Yemen

KSRelief’s support for dialysis centers throughout Yemen is continuing as a second phase of support provides six month’s worth of medical supplies. (SPA)
Updated 29 November 2019

Saudi aid agency reveals plan to support health sector in Yemen

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) has revealed a plan to support the health sector in Yemen, in coordination with Yemen’s High Relief Committee.

“Since the current humanitarian crisis began in Yemen, KSRelief has been providing support throughout the country, including extensive aid to the Taiz governorate,” the KSRelief media center told Arab News.

“Iranian-backed Houthi militias have inflicted great damage to the country’s infrastructure, including the health care sector. To address this issue, KSRelief in coordination with Yemen’s High Relief Committee, representing Yemen’s Ministry of Public Health and Population, has developed a strategic plan to support both the public and private health sectors,” the center said. “Our goal is to deliver health care services to all Yemenis. We aim to reduce the spread of epidemic diseases, supply medical facilities with equipment, supplies, medicines and intravenous (IV) fluids.”

According to KSRelief, it provides dialysis solutions and other medications necessary for treating chronic diseases to Yemen.

“An 80-ton convoy of five aid trucks from KSRelief carrying 300 different kinds of medicines, IV fluids, dialysis solutions and medical supplies has reached Taiz to strengthen the capacity of the governorate’s health care services,” it said.

KSRelief provides urgent treatment for wounded and injured Yemenis in their country, and those for whom treatment is not possible in Yemen are transferred to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region.

The center has implemented numerous health projects in Taiz, including support for Al-Thawra Hospital, which the center has provided with equipment, supplies and medicines. The first phase of support to the hospital’s orthopedic department alone amounted to $3.15 million.

When a recent shipment of dialysis solutions was stolen by the Houthi militias, KSRelief acted quickly to provide Al-Thawra Hospital with a replacement shipment. KSRelief also provided support to the Al-Jomhory Hospital and other regional health centers in Taiz.

KSRelief’s support for dialysis centers throughout Yemen is continuing as a second phase of support provides six month’s worth of medical supplies. Fuel is also being distributed to 95 health facilities across Yemen in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO).

KSRelief’s projects cover many areas of the medical sector including primary healthcare and maternal and pediatric healthcare programs implemented in collaboration with UNICEF. It has also provided treatment to Yemeni patients suffering from eye diseases. The first phase of the latter project is now complete and the second is underway, the center said.

KSRelief has also provided Al-Thawra Hospital with an oxygen generation plant in a project carried out in collaboration with WHO, run an immunization program for children under the age of five implemented with UNICEF, and a country-wide cholera treatment and prevention program was implemented jointly with WHO and UNICEF.

KSRelief also extended support to the Artificial Limbs Centers in Taiz, Aden, Mukalla and Sana’a in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and is currently preparing a new Artificial Limbs Center in Taiz.

“KSRelief is keen to ensure that healthcare services are available throughout Yemen, and continues to enable the provision of comprehensive, impartial healthcare services to all in need, in coordination with its local and international partners,” said the media center.


Tearing down the wall: Saudi restaurants adjust to the abolishment of gender segregation

Updated 28 January 2020

Tearing down the wall: Saudi restaurants adjust to the abolishment of gender segregation

  • New law urges restaurants to remove segregation in entrance and separate seating arrangements
  • Many restaurants have already begun to implement the law, but others stubbornly refuse

RIYADH: Saudi diners are still chewing over the Kingdom’s move to end the long-standing legal requirement for restaurants to have separate entrances for males and families.

As a result of reforms — involving 103 rules and regulations, manuals, models, and standards aimed at making life easier for citizens and visitors — men and women no longer have to enter restaurants through separate doors.

Naif Al-Otaibi, general manager of public relations and media at the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, said gender-segregation was now a matter of choice.

“It’s optional. We did not specify the number of entry points, so the investor is free to have multiple entry points and segregate (males from females) in their restaurant,” he told Arab News.

Many restaurants and cafes in Saudi Arabia, including American coffee chain Starbucks, typically have separate sections for families (women on their own or accompanied by men) and males.

The AlShaya Group, operator of Starbucks, The Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang’s among others, has said it will end gender segregation in stores and eateries that were opened before the new rule came into effect.

“We at Alshaya are planning to transform the old stores’ designs following the new desegregation law, but that will take place over the course of the next two years,” the company told Arab News.

An employee at one of Starbucks’ gender-segregated outlets said maintenance contractors had recently conducted an inspection of the site with a view to commencing remodeling work. “They will take out the wall that separates the male area from the families section,” the staff member told Arab News.

“They will also remove the signs at the entry points that say, ‘families’ and ‘males’ and merge the two separate sections.”

Just a few years ago all of this was unthinkable in a very different Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom had a strict policy of not allowing women to dine in a restaurant without a mahram (male guardian). They would be turned away if they did not comply with the rule.

Recalling an incident that happened 20 years ago, “D.K.,” a 37-year-old Saudi woman who wished to remain anonymous, said she found herself inside one of the white vehicles belonging to the religious police whose official job description was the “prevention of vice and promotion of virtue.”

She had been dining with her friends at a McDonald’s restaurant without a mahram.

But D.K. is amazed by the changes that have taken place since, and said the ending of gender segregation in restaurants was a huge step forward for the Kingdom.

She praised King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for advancing women’s empowerment by increasing their employment opportunities, enhancing the quality of their social life and expanding their personal freedoms.

While these steps might seem unimpressive to the average person in the West, cumulatively they were opening up the Kingdom in a big way, D.K. told Arab News, though she admitted that some conservative sections of Saudi society still wished to see the continuation of gender segregation in restaurants.

However, most restaurant owners were eager to move with the changing times.

Al-Amin Mahmoud, a 35-year-old father-of-four from Madinah, takes his family every weekend to a different restaurant. While in Jeddah on a short vacation, he faced a problem when he discovered that some restaurants did not have separate sections for males and families.

“I respect that decision, but I did not feel comfortable. I knew that the decision had been implemented. However, for me, having grown up in a conservative family and society, it does not suit me,” he told Arab News.

Father-of-three Habib Saleh, 41, said that businesses had the option to accept or reject the gender-desegregation decision.

“This is akin to the decision to ban sheesha from restaurants. Many people objected, saying smoking sheesha was the main reason they frequented the restaurants in the first place. Some restaurants who implemented the rule naturally lost regular customers, which affected their revenue,” he added.

Saleh pointed out that when considering applying the new rules, some business owners faced the same dilemma of having to be prepared to lose some customers.

“It will take time before people get used to it. Of course, people will either reject it or be suspicious about it at first. And we have to keep in mind that some of the people who are objecting to this decision do not mind eating in mixed restaurants when they are abroad. So, there is some amount of contradiction. 

“We have to remember that the segregation rule was in force for more than 30 years, so don’t think that people will accept it quickly,” he said.

For his part, Abdulrahman Al-Harbi, an architect, believes implementing the desegregation law will improve the bottom lines of restaurants in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Harbi said not only would managing a restaurant become easier but construction bills would also shrink. “I prefer open spaces. A good designer can provide clever privacy solutions to customers in different ways. 

“If we want to call ourselves a civilized society, we must get used to a mixed-gender environment,” he added.

Abdul Aziz Al-Qahtani, the owner of Bicicleta Coffee Shop in Riyadh, said that since opening a new branch in the capital’s U Walk, only one cashier counter was required.

“We had customers coming in and asking for separate sections, but we have to keep pace with development,” he said. “This change in the law has reduced costs in many areas for us. Now we don’t need two cashiers to serve a family section and a male section.

“We also don’t have to have large spaces any more to be able to divide it up into two sections.”