RIYADH: Artworks displayed this year during the first annual Noor Riyadh festival of art and light set two Guinness world records, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.
“Beacon,” by Polish artist Carolina Halatek, broke the record for the largest LED (light-emitting diode) structure. The sculpture, which was on show at the King Abdul Aziz Historical Center between March 18 and April 3, consisted of 272,160 LEDs.
“Star in Motion,” by Belgian artist Koert Vermeulen, was suspended at a height of 256 meters on the Kingdom Center tower and radiated 1.2 million lumens of light. It set the world record for the brightest suspended ornament.
Noor Riyadh, which ran from March until June, featured a number of installations across the city and a series of events, including the Light on Light exhibition at King Abdullah Financial District Conference Center, a major retrospective of light art from the 1960s to the present day.
The festival included works by more than 60 artists from more than 20 countries, including Saudi Arabia, with the aim of providing an inspiring cultural and human experience for locals and visitors alike.
Other events included tours, musical and cinematic performances, virtual discussions, workshops, and family activities in 13 locations across the city. It also gave more than 200 volunteers the chance to gain professional experience in the creative field. More than 300,000 people attended the festival as a whole, including more than 12,000 who visited the Light on Light exhibition.
Noor Riyadh is an initiative of the Riyadh Art Project, which hopes to establish more than 1,000 public artworks throughout the city. It also aims to help achieve the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 by contributing to the development of a creative economy and making Riyadh one of the most livable cities in the world.
After COVID, Saudi Arabia set to turn its attention to an older scourge: viral hepatitis
Once COVID-19 is brought under control, Saudi Arabia will turn its attention toward a silent, older scourge
Updated 8 min 6 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 21 min 49 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 28 July 2021
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.
The fund was founded in June with an initial $4 billion investment and is part of plans to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy
Updated 1 min 11 sec ago
RIYADH: The Tourism Development Fund (TDF) has adopted cloud computing technology in cooperation with Oracle to enable investors to benefit from the Saudi tourism sector’s promising opportunities.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, TDF said that implementing the Cloud Computing Strategy (CCS) would enhance data integration, increase productivity, reduce costs, unify and facilitate operations and ensure smooth communication with all stakeholders, including investors, donors, and governmental agencies. TDF said cooperation with the world’s largest database management company will provide a full range of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure solutions and Oracle Fusion Cloud Applications which will contribute to enhancing TDF’s services.
The fund was founded in June with an initial $4 billion investment and is part of plans to diversify the Kingdom’s economy.
Who’s Who: Abdullah Maghram, Saudi Arabia’s virtual reality filmmaker
Updated 1 min 58 sec ago
Abdullah Maghram is Saudi Arabia’s first virtual reality (VR) filmmaker and expert on the subject.
He has spent the last 10 years of his life developing, promoting and delivering VR and augmented reality (AR) technologies.
Maghram obtained a master’s degree in media studies with a specialization in VR from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). During his studies, he also co-produced and directed a VR film for the school’s 130th anniversary, which won RMIT’s Most Innovative Project Award.
Maghram has developed and maintained a world-class VR infrastructure. After graduation, he worked as a VR director and AR content creator to develop immersive simulation projects. He designed an international PR campaign involving nine languages across 30 countries.
He was nominated on the VIVE VR Global Innovators 2021 list and has been a part of numerous panel discussions on platforms like Misk. He is also the founder of the online news platform Thevrarai.
He returned to RMIT as a guest speaker where he talked about the future of VR. He also launched the first VR podcast in the country.
Maghram firmly believes that VR is a fundamental part of expanding human experience and is now looking forward to working on new projects. He believes that VR technology is not just meant to entertain but can be used for humanitarian and educational purposes as well. He is among the few experts in the field and is looking forward to working with anyone willing to push the limits and take advantage of this novel technology.