LONDON: G20 countries have succeeded in sending a message of hope and reassurance to their citizens and the global community, King Salman said on Sunday.
In his closing remarks at the end of the two-day summit hosted virtually in Riyadh due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the king announced that the members of the 20 largest economies of the world had adopted the final communique.
“We have succeeded in sending out a message of hope and reassurance to our citizens and all people around the world through the final communique of this leaders’ summit,” the king said.
The king said that G20 countries have upheld their commitment to working together to confront the COVID-19 pandemic and to safeguard lives and livelihoods.
“We have adopted important policies that will achieve recovery all the way to an economy that is resilient, sustainable, inclusive, and balanced,” King Salman said.
“These policies will also maintain the momentum to make the global trade system work for all, and create the conditions to achieve sustainable growth.”
The king said G20 countries will work on laying the foundations to achieve opportunities for all through empowering people, safeguarding the planet and shaping new frontiers.
“Our joint and individual actions will be critical in overcoming the immediate global challenge we are facing,” King Salman said.
King Salman said that although it was the first time that Saudi Arabia had held the presidency, the Kingdom was able “to rise to the challenge” amid the pandemic with the support of member countries.
“Due to its unique stature regionally and internationally…the Kingdom will continue to play a key role within the G20 to achieve global cooperation and find solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges,” the king said.
The king handed over the G20 presidency to Italy, which will chair next year’s summit.
As Saudi Arabia brings COVID-19 under control, fight against viral hepatitis set to regain prominence
Once COVID-19 is brought under control, Saudi Arabia will turn its attention toward a silent, older scourge
Updated 14 min 51 sec ago
Rebecca Anne Proctor
DUBAI: Before the coronavirus swept the planet in early 2020, Saudi Arabia was on course to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. But as in the rest of the world, the task of fighting COVID-19 in the Kingdom was understandably given precedence over efforts to defeat what is often called the “silent killer.”
Hepatitis fits the description because 95 percent of infected individuals worldwide are unaware of their infection and in most cases people are asymptomatic. It nevertheless remains the world’s seventh-leading cause of death.
The illness is an inflammation of the liver that can cause a range of health problems and can be fatal, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). There are five main strains of the virus, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E.
While all cause liver disease, the five strains differ in important ways, including modes of transmission, severity of the illness, geographical distribution and prevention methods.
In particular, types B and C lead to chronic disease and, together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer. An estimated
325 million people worldwide live with hep-B or C and, for most, testing and treatment remains beyond reach.
In 2015, viral hepatitis caused 1.34 million deaths worldwide, mostly from hep-B infection, which is higher than the number of global deaths caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Some types of hepatitis are preventable through vaccination. According to the WHO, “an estimated 4.5 million premature deaths could be prevented in low- and middle-income countries by 2030 through vaccination, diagnostic tests, medicines and education campaigns.”
July 28 is World Hepatitis Day. The date was chosen to coincide with the birthday of Nobel prize-winning scientist Dr. Baruch Blumberg, who discovered hep-B virus and developed a diagnostic test and vaccine.
World Hepatitis Day is observed each year on this date to raise awareness about the virus that causes liver disease and hepatocellular cancer.
With COVID-19 vaccination efforts continuing apace and the pandemic beginning to subside in many parts of the developed world, the fight against viral hepatitis is once again high on Saudi Arabia’s public health agenda.
“The Saudi Ministry of Health instituted a specific program to fight hepatitis C in the country before the pandemic, in accordance with the WHO,” Dr. Faisal Aba Alkhail, a consultant transplant hepatologist at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, told Arab News.
“But then COVID-19 came and disrupted many initiatives. The battle against COVID-19 had to be the priority.”
In 2016, the WHO Global Health Sector Strategy issued a road map for the elimination of viral hepatitis as a public health problem by 2030.
The plan entailed a 90 percent reduction in infections and a 65 percent reduction in mortality by the end of the decade, compared to a 2015 baseline that showed 257 million people living with hepatitis B, 71 million with hepatitis C, and 36.7 million with HIV.
“As Saudi Arabia gains control over COVID-19, it’s time to revisit the initiatives and campaigns to eliminate viral hepatitis B and C with full force to meet the WHO target of elimination by 2030 in our country,” Aba Alkhail said.
Hepatitis B is spread through contact with the blood, semen and other body fluids of an infected individual, but can be prevented through vaccination.
Hepatitis C is also blood-borne, but varies in its severity, in some cases lasting only a few months while at other times developing into a lifelong illness. It is a major cause of liver cancer, with sufferers often requiring liver transplantation. There is currently no vaccine.
In the 1980s, Saudi Arabia had one of the highest rates of hep-B infection in the world, with an estimated 8.3 percent of the population infected.
Then, in 1989, the Kingdom became the first country in the Middle East to launch a hep-B vaccination program, eight years after the first vaccine was approved for use in the US. By 1990, the vaccine was available to all infants from birth and children were routinely vaccinated when they started school.
While the vaccination of children and infants has been associated with a notable decline in the rate of infection in Saudi Arabia, falling to just 1.3 percent according to the Saudi Journal of Gastroenterology, hepatitis remains a major public health risk in the Kingdom, especially among high-risk groups, including those with HIV, drug addictions and those who have undergone blood transfusions.
In 2007, the Saudi Ministry of Health ranked hepatitis the second most common reportable viral disease in the country, with almost 9,000 new cases diagnosed that year alone. Of these, 52 percent had hepatitis B, 32 percent hepatitis C, and 16 percent hepatitis A.
In Saudi Arabia, hepatitis B and C remain a major cause of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of primary liver cancer, and diseases that require liver transplantation. The infection rate may have dropped, but morbidity and mortality related to the disease have not shown a parallel decline.
It’s time to revisit the initiatives and campaigns to eliminate viral hepatitis B and C with full force.
Dr. Faisal Aba Alkhail - Consultant transplant hepatologist at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh
Medical experts expect the burden of associated liver diseases to rise in the coming years, owing to aging in infected populations.
Saudi Arabia has implemented a number of programs designed to improve diagnosis, including premarital screening for hepatitis B and C and HIV. “In Saudi Arabia you can’t complete marriage documents without doing the test for hep-B and hep-C,” Aba Alkhail said.
“In addition, the Kingdom follows the standard special population screening of dialysis patients, blood bank donors, hospital-based patients and other high-risk groups.”
Crucially, it has also made hepatitis screening and treatments free to all citizens and residents, both Saudi and non-Saudi.
“In Saudi Arabia, we are (trying our best to follow) the WHO targets: To diagnose 90 percent of infections and treat 80 percent of high viral-load patients by 2030, as well as diagnose and treat all infected patients by 2022,” said Aba Alkhail.
“Most known cases have been rated and cured since effective treatments were made available in 2014. Many countries are running out of new hepatitis C patients to treat, according to the World Hepatitis Alliance.
“Saudi Arabia still has the burden of hepatitis C patients that are not yet diagnosed and there is a need for a screening program to detect previously undiagnosed cases.”
Medical professionals set out a list of recommendations in a May 2021 report, titled “Revealing Hepatitis B Virus as a Silent Killer: A Call-to-Action for Saudi Arabia,” published in the Cureus Journal of Medical Science.
“In 2016, hep-B caused 1,700 annual deaths (i.e. five deaths per day) in KSA,” the report said. “Although substantial improvements have been made in hep-B management, a lot remains to be done for hep-B screening and care pathways.
“Considering the current hep-B estimates in KSA, the country is expected to achieve the WHO hep-B 2030 target goals for diagnosis, treatment and mortality by 2051.
“The current scenario in KSA demands the implementation of a structured policy framework to combat and eliminate hep-B.”
The report’s authors said the Kingdom could curb the virus by “establishing a national-level registry, implementing screening campaigns, improving linkage of care between primary care physicians (PCPs) and specialists, and increasing PCP education and awareness.”
However, the report said that in order for these measures to have the desired effect on transmission rates, they must be adhered to consistently and simultaneously throughout the Kingdom.
“We have already come so far since the 1990s. Saudi Arabia had a problem in the past with hepatitis, but the vaccine has greatly improved its prevalence in the Kingdom,” said Aba Alkhail.
“The challenge now is finding the undiagnosed cases and treating them effectively so that we can win this battle.”
● The illness is an inflammation of the liver that can cause a range of health problems and can be fatal, according to the World Health Organization. There are five main strains of the virus, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E.
● While all cause liver disease, the five strains differ in important ways, including modes of transmission, severity of the illness, geographical distribution and prevention methods.
● In particular, types B and C lead to chronic disease and, together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer.
New ‘Hawi’ platform launched to develop Saudi Arabia hobbies sector
Hawi will be involved with training courses, where international expertise can be transferred to clubs and exchanged with other institutions
Updated 6 min 14 sec ago
JEDDAH: The Quality of Life Program’s Center on Tuesday launched a pilot version of the “Hawi” online platform to develop the Kingdom’s hobbies sector.
Hawi has been produced for the Saudi Amateur Clubs Association to raise awareness on the importance of hobbies to boost creativity and social activities.
The platform aims to encourage communication among those who share the same interests and ensure the operational and financial support for amateurs.
Director of the association Najlaa Al-Ajmi said the platform will promote positive lifestyles and improve the quality of life in the Kingdom.
“The platform has been developed to establish communities that share the same interests under an official umbrella, making it easier for clubs to establish their teams and register members,” she added.
She said that the platform has many benefits including “promoting healthy lifestyles, establishing balance between work and social life and allowing amateurs to practice their hobbies in an adequate environment, with people who share the same passion.”
• Hawi has been produced for the Saudi Amateur Clubs Association to raise awareness on the importance of hobbies to boost creativity and social activities.
• The platform aims to encourage communication among those who share the same interests.
• It allows people to establish and register amateur clubs, manage members and their activities, define the regulations of the sector, reserve facilities and organize training courses.
Hawi allows people to establish and register amateur clubs, manage members and their activities, define the regulations of the sector, reserve facilities and organize training courses.
It also encourages amateurs to practice their hobbies by finding the proper facilities for their role.
The platform will support symposiums and lectures related to hobbies in the Kingdom and abroad.
Hawi will be involved with training courses, where international expertise can be transferred to clubs and exchanged with other institutions.
Hawi’s board of directors comprises representatives of 11 governmental authorities under the supervision of the Quality of Life program, the supervisory authority for hobbies in the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia affirms support for Tunisia’s security and stability
The foreign ministry says it considers the situation a sovereign matter
The Kingdom called on the international community to stand by Tunisia
Updated 55 min 15 sec ago
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is following up on the current situation in Tunisia, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
“The Kingdom respects everything related to Tunisia’s internal affairs and considers (the situation) a sovereign matter,” it said in a statement.
The Saudi government affirmed its support for Tunisia’s security and stability, and also affirmed “its confidence in the Tunisian leadership to overcome these circumstances, and to achieve a decent life and prosperity for the Tunisian people.”
The Kingdom called on the international community to stand by Tunisia in these circumstances in order to tackle its health and economic challenges.
Tunisian President Kais Saied on Monday sacked the prime minister and suspended parliament after violent nationwide mass protests erupted on Sunday.
The North African country is also struggling to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, that has put the health system under near collapse.
Saudi Culture Ministry issues 149 more scholarships
Female students dominate the new batch of scholarships at 74 percent
Updated 57 sec ago
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Culture Ministry on Tuesday said it issued 149 additional scholarships, which will provide specialized learning opportunities for Saudi male and female students at prominent international institutions.
It is part of the ministry’s cultural scholarship program. Female students dominate the new batch of scholarships at 74 percent. The ministry said so far 50 percent of the male and female students enrolled with the program are undergraduates, while 49 percent are pursuing their master’s degrees. They are studying in several creative fields.
Archaeology, design, museums, music, theater, filmmaking, literature, visual and culinary arts, will be just some of the fields of study available at Ph.D., bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels.
US Yemen envoy Lenderking arrives in Saudi Arabia for talks
Lenderking will also meet with representatives from the international community and the office of UN Special Envoy for Yemen
Updated 27 July 2021
RIYADH: The US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
During his visit, he will meet with senior officials from the Saudi and Yemeni governments.
Lenderking will discuss the growing consequences of the Houthi offensive on Marib, which is exacerbating the humanitarian crisis and triggering instability elsewhere in the country.
The special envoy will address the urgent need for efforts to stabilize Yemen’s economy and to facilitate the timely import of fuel to northern Yemen, and the need for the Houthis to end their manipulation of fuel imports and prices inside of Yemen.
Lenderking will also meet with representatives from the international community and the office of UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths to discuss the importance of an inclusive peace process and a rapid appointment of a new UN Envoy.
“Now is the time to stop the fighting and enable Yemenis to shape a more peaceful, prosperous future for their country,” a US State Department statement said.