Prince Alwaleed pledges $30m to fight pandemic

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal at the Elysee palace in Paris. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 29 April 2020

Prince Alwaleed pledges $30m to fight pandemic

  • Prince Alwaleed bin Talal: With many developed nations struggling to cope with COVID-19, we must spare a thought for the developing countries of Africa and the less fortunate countries in the Middle East
  • The $30 million comes after the prince pledged the use of his hotels, schools and other businesses in Saudi Arabia to support the government’s measures against the pandemic

DUBAI: Alwaleed Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, has given an extra $20.6 million to fight the coronavirus pandemic in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

The donation, in partnership with some of the world’s leading philanthropies, comes on top of the organization’s existing funding of $9.4 million, which has been reallocated to fight the pandemic. This brings the prince’s total commitment to medical and economic help to $30 million.

“In these times of unprecedented crisis it is more important now than ever that we pull our resources together in the battle against COVID-19,” he said.

“With many developed nations struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, we must spare a thought for the developing countries of Africa and the less fortunate countries in the Middle East.”

The $30 million comes after he pledged the use of his hotels, schools and other businesses in Saudi Arabia to support the government’s measures against the pandemic, and support for Lebanese students studying in virus-ravaged Europe to return home.

The funds will be spent on a variety of initiatives, including those led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the GAVI vaccination projects, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

“The series of impact-driven initiatives will seek to tackle the health and economic implications of the pandemic, such as manufacturing rapid diagnostic tests for developing countries and reducing the long-term impact of the potential economic fallout of COVID-19,” Alwaleed Philanthropies said.

“Continuing to support the Middle East and North Africa, the fund includes a significant allocation towards initiatives including allocation to UN-Habitat to improve water, sanitation and hygiene in the most vulnerable communities, and to establish shelter and rehabilitate damaged housings in order to address overcrowding and enable social / physical distancing in disadvantaged neighborhoods.”

Alwaleed Philanthropies is also working with the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO) to mitigate the economic fallout of the crisis in Africa while promoting hygiene in developing countries.

The amount allocated to ICESCO will strengthen local manufacturing capabilities to produce hygiene products and protective equipment, while empowering women and young entrepreneurs in the informal and local sector.

Many of the initiatives will support vital work to support communities and curb the spread of COVID-19.

Alwaleed Philanthropies will be working with Gates Philanthropy Partners to fund health projects to accelerate the development of therapeutics and delivery of diagnostics to protect vulnerable populations across Africa.

This includes an allocation to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which will allow for additional diagnostic laboratories and testing capabilities throughout the continent.

Additionally, Alwaleed Philanthropies is building upon its existing relationship with Splash to provide clean water and promote hand washing in rural and urban areas in South Asia and Africa. 

Supporting scientific research to reduce future outbreaks, Alwaleed Philanthropies has built on its four-year relationship with GAVI, with a further amount allocated to provide accessibility and innovative solutions to reach remote areas, and an allocation to support the WHO in strengthening its existing procurement capacity to rapidly secure needed emergency products and build a global stockpile.

Separately, GAVI — backed by Saudi Arabia — on Monday made $40 million available to the UN Children’s Fund to secure personal protective equipment, diagnostic tests and other vital supplies on behalf of 58 low-income countries in response to the pandemic, bringing its total support so far in the crisis to $200 million.


Saudi TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

Photo/Supplied
Updated 12 July 2020

Saudi TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

  • Due to pandemic, interest in the app skyrocketed as many users watch videos and try to recreate them while in quarantine

RIYADH: Chinese video platform TikTok is under fire once again, as rumors of the app being a tool used by the Chinese government to spy on users resurface online.

TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is a video-sharing site similar to the now-defunct Vine, where users share short clips of themselves which can be altered using AI technology.
Lip-syncing along with a track, using filters, and adding special effects give users the chance to create short clips that can be shared and downloaded in several social media platforms.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, interest in the app skyrocketed as many users downloaded TikTok to watch videos and try to recreate them while in quarantine. The app has also gained significant popularity in the Middle East with influencers such as Saudi model Roz, UAE-based content creators Khalid and Salama, and Saudi top TikToker iimeeto, who recently celebrated reaching four million followers on the platform.
Rania Mohammed, a fourth year medical student at Dar AlUloom University in Riyadh, said that TikTok was “the only thing keeping her sane” as she struggled with the pressures of school and quarantine.
“As a med school student, my attention span and free time are both severely limited,” she told Arab News. “Taking a 15 minute break to watch silly TikToks has helped me keep motivated. The specific brand of humor on that app is the fastest way to make me laugh.”
Mai Alhumood, a government employee, said that she downloaded the app while she was bored and became “quickly addicted” to the platform’s fun short videos.
“People are so creative on TikTok, and the challenges that keep going viral are so interesting,” she told Arab News.
However, the app has long-suffered from accusations of spying and gathering users’ private information on behalf of the Chinese government, leading to both temporary and permanent bans in countries around the world.
Recently, it was reported that Amazon requested that employees remove the app from their smartphones in an email over “security risks.” The company later retracted its directive.
Saudi cybersecurity expert Abdullah Al-Jaber believed that concerns over the security of TikTok’s collected data stemmed from the app’s country of origin and its rules and regulations.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Following a provisional ban in April 2019, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned TikTok permanently in June this year, along with 58 other Chinese apps. The ministry claimed that the apps were a ‘threat to the sovereignty and security of the country’ following a Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops in the disputed territory of Ladakh.

• Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok in July 2018, citing public concern regarding ‘illegal content’ such as pornography and blasphemy. However, the app was unblocked following various changes from TikTok such as the opening of a government liaison office and implementing security mechanisms.

• Recently, the US became the third country to seriously consider banning the app, according to information from President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump also weighed in on a potential TikTok ban. He said that banning the app would be ‘punishing China for its response to the coronavirus.’

“TikTok collects data in a very similar way to US applications,” he told Arab News. “However the main concern is that the US has regulations and compliance that must be met when collecting customer data, such as GDPR data privacy regulation. In the case of TikTok, we don’t know as much about how the data is being used or stored because we don’t know their regulations.”
Following a provisional ban in April 2019, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned TikTok permanently in June this year, along with 58 other Chinese apps. The ministry claimed that the apps were a “threat to the sovereignty and security of the country” following a Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops in the disputed territory of Ladakh.
Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok in July 2018, citing public concern regarding “illegal content” such as pornography and blasphemy. However, the app was unblocked following various changes from TikTok such as the opening of a government liaison office and implementing security mechanisms.
Recently, the US became the third country to seriously consider banning the app, according to information from President Donald Trump’s administration.
Trump also weighed in on a potential TikTok ban. In an interview with Gray Television, Trump said that banning the app would be “punishing China for its response to the coronavirus.”
“Look, what happened with China with this virus, what they’ve done to this country and to the entire world is disgraceful,” he said.
While Saudi Arabia has yet to announce a ban of any kind of TikTok, local users and followers are trying to practice caution while using the app anyway.
Alhumood considered making videos on the platform, but dismissed the idea and only uses it to follow other people’s videos.
“I have ideas for it, sure, but I’d rather not take the risk. I don’t even have a username or a registered account, and that’s one of the better things about TikTok. I only have the app, but I can still watch all the videos without giving them my private information.”
Mohammed also said that she had no interest in creating videos herself, though she did have a registered account in order to comment on videos and keep track of her favorites.
However Al-Jaber said that, in his opinion, registering an account on TikTok did not necessarily pose more of a risk than using other social media.
“If you use Facebook or Twitter, it’s not much different than using TikTok,” he said.