How Saudi app designers made blood donation in the Kingdom easier, more organized

A Saudi youth flashes the V-sign for victory as he gives blood at a donation center in Jeddah. (AFP file photo)
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A Saudi youth flashes the V-sign for victory as he gives blood at a donation center in Jeddah. (AFP)
Blood stocks need to be replenished constantly because blood components have a limited shelf life.  (AFP file photo)
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Blood stocks need to be replenished constantly because blood components have a limited shelf life.  (AFP file photo)
Blood stocks need to be replenished constantly because blood components have a limited shelf life.  (AFP file photo)
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Blood stocks need to be replenished constantly because blood components have a limited shelf life.  (AFP file photo)
Blood stocks need to be replenished constantly because blood components have a limited shelf life.   (AFP file photo)
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Blood stocks need to be replenished constantly because blood components have a limited shelf life. 
Ahmed Alhesayani was one of the young Saudi co-founders of Wateen and helped to launch the service in early 2019. (Supplied)
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Ahmed Alhesayani was one of the young Saudi co-founders of Wateen and helped to launch the service in early 2019. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 September 2021

How Saudi app designers made blood donation in the Kingdom easier, more organized

How Saudi app designers made blood donation in the Kingdom easier, more organized
  • Tech entrepreneurs revolutionizing the health sector and inspiring more people to donate blood
  • To date, Wateen has clocked up 520,000 users, 962,000 donations and 440,000 appointments

DUBAI: Blood-donation awareness has been steadily increasing in Saudi Arabia, thanks in part to an innovative smartphone app called Wateen, which tells people about their nearest blood bank, when they are due to give, and how many times they have donated.

Ahmad Alhesayani, one of Wateen’s young Saudi co-founders, helped launch the service in early 2019. Today it is used by the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health under Sehhaty, the national platform for blood donation.

“Wateen not only makes donating easier, but also automates more than 150 private and public blood-bank systems in the country, making them more productive, helpful and organized,” Alhesayani told Arab News.

“The service encourages and enables voluntary blood donation in Saudi Arabia. It has a humanitarian approach, and what shapes it is the vision of creating a robust health infrastructure around blood, plasma and platelets donation. The concept is both ambitious and feasible, and at the same time imperative.”




Wateen has become a recruitment tool for the ministry to motivate potential donors

Blood and its components are used by hospitals to treat patients with medical conditions such as anemia, cancer and blood disorders, as well as those having surgery. Nations try to maintain a stockpile of blood so that their health systems can provide lifesaving transfusions during mass-casualty events. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has refocused minds on health-system preparedness.

However, blood stocks need to be replenished constantly because blood components have a limited shelf life. Red blood cells can be stored for up to 35 days, platelets for up to seven days, and plasma for up to three years.

Blood banks rely on regular voluntary donations. Despite shifting attitudes in the Kingdom toward blood donation and a growing number of donors, including many women, blood banks occasionally run short, especially when it comes to rarer blood types, which can be a matter of life and death for patients.




Blood stocks need to be replenished constantly because blood components have a limited shelf life.  (AFP file photo)


Saudi health officials have introduced measures to ensure adequate stocks in blood banks, including those run by the health ministry and dedicated centers. These include a large facility at King Fahad Medical City and the country’s Central Blood Bank.

Donors in the Kingdom must be aged over 17, weigh more than 50 kg and have passed a brief medical examination.

Wateen provides a seamless interface where people can locate their nearest blood bank and other facilities without having to trawl the internet, which often provides “useless and superficial” information, according to Alhesayani.

“The approach is to tap Saudis’ inherent compassion and brotherhood, and turn it into a tangible service. Freeing people of their reservations and misunderstandings regarding blood donations, and partnering with like-minded individuals and organizations is at the heart of our business model.”




Ahmed Alhesayani (foreground) was one of the young Saudi co-founders of Wateen and helped to launch the service in early 2019. (Supplied)

Alhesayani belongs to a generation of young Saudis responsible for a wave of innovations in health-tech solutions — a trend that has been nurtured by the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform agenda, which seeks to diversify national industries away from oil and build a dynamic, knowledge-based economy.

“I found myself in this project when I finished my first semester in the college of law,” said Alhesayani, a graduate of King Saud University in Riyadh.

“It started after an invitation from a friend to leave my part-time job as a bookseller and join a team driven by the desire to make an impact, with a clear vision to change the blood-bank system and help the community. I was impressed by a short conversation I had with him, so I left my job and joined in the early stages of the project.”

As the startup grew and its destination became clearer, Alhesayani was handed the operational lead in recognition of his energy and passion for the project. “I was a 19-year-old student, but it is possible to handle it if you are hungry to learn and achieve,” he said.

FASTFACTS

56 Ideal gap between whole blood donations in days.

3 Lives that can be saved by a single donation.

10 Average adult’s blood volume in pints.

1 Typical whole-blood donation volume in pints.

(Source: Cedars-Sinai)

Leading operations was one of the most complex parts of the project, with responsibility for more than 150 blood banks in over 20 regions, thousands of users and more than 40 health ministry representatives — all at least 10 years older than Alhesayani.

“I have funny stories about dealing with older people from hugely different backgrounds,” he said. “The operations were not only about that, but the platform would have been useless if it were not integrated with all blood banks.”

Qualified training, including data entry, appointments and donation requests, was needed for nurses, doctors and the staff providing the service for donors. The work meant Alhesayani often had to travel while continuing his university studies.

“At Wateen, we have weekly, monthly and yearly key performance indicators that help us achieve our targets and grow rapidly,” he said. “I was committed to achieving more than what they were looking for, and my team and I completed the annual target after only four months of hard work.”




Wateen acts as a platform with a growing number of features and is integrated under the name of Sehhaty and Blood Bank Management System.

Alhesayani said that the Qimam Fellowship — an intensive 12-day training program launched in 2018 to empower the Kingdom’s high-potential university students through one-to-one mentoring and career guidance — was a vital step in his career development.

One of the student participants, Ahmed Alenzi, joined Wateen’s operations team in early 2019 after being recommended by his mentor.

“I worked with Alenzi for a while, and saw how clever, hard working and smart he was, with a real passion for success,” Alhesayani told Arab News. “Later on, I asked him about Qimam, how to apply and the benefits it offers.”

The young entrepreneur added: “Qimam is not only a period program but also provides friends and colleagues for life — people you will always be proud of, learn from, and potential and promising partners you will love to work with.”

At the end of 2019, as a culmination of his work at Wateen, Alhesayani and his team applied for the King Khalid Award for the nonprofit sector in the GCC, and won, gaining the recognition of King Salman.

Today, Wateen acts as a platform with a growing number of features, including additional information from other health ministry platforms, and is integrated under the name of Sehhaty and Blood Bank Management System.




Wateen has become a recruitment tool for the ministry to motivate potential donors. (AFP file photo)

With 520,000 users, 962,000 donations and 440,000 appointments, Wateen has become a recruitment tool for the ministry to motivate potential donors and meet the needs of blood banks.

“Wateen has come to fruition for the overall advancement of Saudi Arabia’s healthcare infrastructure,” Alhesayani said.

“The country has an advanced infrastructure on many counts, but there is plenty of scope for improvement when it comes to blood donation. Saudi Arabia is growing and progressing rapidly in such areas as artificial intelligence, data and innovation, which will create a seamless customer experience in people’s daily or seasonal needs.

“The healthcare system is one of them. Wateen is just one example of the vast tech transformations occurring in Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health.”

__________________
Twitter: @CalineMalek


WEF22: Saudi Arabia rises on several key performance indicators

WEF22: Saudi Arabia rises on several key performance indicators
Updated 41 min 42 sec ago

WEF22: Saudi Arabia rises on several key performance indicators

WEF22: Saudi Arabia rises on several key performance indicators
  • Princess Haifa bin Mohammed, assistant minister of the Tourism Ministry, said that the Kingdom’s industry “didn’t just recover, but actually increased”
  • Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi minister of investment, said that the Saudi technology and tourism industries have been a driving force in attracting investors from around the world

DAVOS: Saudi Arabia will continue to invest in new sectors and diversify its economy to achieve sustainable growth, ministers from the Kingdom told the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Wednesday.

In the latest WEF Travel and Tourism Development Index (TTDI) published on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia ranked 34 among more than 100 countries for development, sustainability and resiliency in industry — a 10-mark jump from pre-pandemic levels.

Speaking at the Saudi Arabia Outlook session in Davos, Princess Haifa bin Mohammed, assistant minister of the Tourism Ministry, said that the Kingdom’s industry “didn’t just recover, but actually increased.”

She added: “We managed to amend the regulations and policies. We are now among the top 10 countries in the environment of business, travel and tourism.”

The Kingdom’s TTDI score improved in three main sections since 2019: The business environment with an 11 percent rise, tourism demand pressure and impact with an 8 percent rise, and the human resource and labor market with a 7.3 percent rise.

Princess Haifa attributed the growth to the government placing travel and tourism at the center of its recovery plans. Support was quickly provided to ensure that the industry’s development stayed on track, she said.

“The prioritization of the travel and tourism industry from the government perspective is why we managed to do so well during the pandemic and recover. We quickly gave support to accommodations, we protected the jobs in that sector and we focused on training as well. We managed to train 110,000 people last year alone, which is all contributing to the way we are moving forward,” she added.

Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal Al-Ibrahim said that the Kingdom will continue to “make access to talent easy in this upward journey of our economic and social growth.”

Bridging the digital divide and harnessing local talent has been at the core Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha told the WEF session.

In line with the reform plan — put forth by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — the Kingdom has made significant strides in its goal of diversifying the economy. In 2019, the Kingdom announced that it would open its doors to tourists, and has since introduced protocols to ease travel regulations.

“This has been the thesis for Vision 2030: How we can leverage talent and technology to improve inclusion, sustainability and growth. And on inclusion, we want to make sure that we close down the digital divide and make sure that there is equity in everything that we do,” Al-Swaha said.

As the Kingdom opened its doors to international travelers, it was also quick to reform laws on women’s empowerment and gender parity.

“We are very proud that we have jumped from 7 percent women’s empowerment in tech to more than 29 percent, which is higher than the EU average, the G20 average and even the US average. I just came back from Silicon Valley, where they said that they are at 27 percent.”

However, despite media reports that Saudi Arabia would allow NEOM to operate under its own set of laws and thus allow alcohol, the Kingdom has stayed adamant about changing its regulations to attract foreign tourists.

Princess Haifa said: “We are going to continue with our current laws. We have been doing very well and we have actually been outperforming globally when it comes to tourism with what we currently have to offer today. There is a lot to go around without introducing anything new.”

Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi minister of investment, said that the Saudi technology and tourism industries have been a driving force in attracting investors from around the world.

With the Saudi National Investment Strategy in effect, Al-Falih said that the plan is “leading us to diversify the economy by unlocking some of the new, exciting sectors that have so much potential and so much competitiveness.”

The strategy aims to boost net foreign direct investment flows to $103.46 billion annually by 2030, positioning the Kingdom as the 15th largest economy in the world.

According to the ministers, the progress in Saudi Arabia will also act as an accelerator for regional growth and inspire healthy competition — making the Kingdom and neighboring countries a hub for investment and travel.

Al-Falih said: “I believe that the Kingdom’s rise in its economic and competitive performance actually helps the competitiveness (of neighboring countries). It allows companies and enterprises, and the governments of those countries to integrate with a larger global economy in Saudi Arabia.”

Al-Ibrahim said: “I think competition is essential for us to push the bar upwards, but coordination is also necessary. There is a lot of coordination and collaboration that happens behind the scenes. There is a lot of camaraderie between policymakers within the region that gives us these assurances.”


The 19th Regular Session of OIC-IPHRC to draw up closing statement

The 19th Regular Session of OIC-IPHRC to draw up closing statement
Updated 25 May 2022

The 19th Regular Session of OIC-IPHRC to draw up closing statement

The 19th Regular Session of OIC-IPHRC to draw up closing statement

JEDDAH: The 19th Regular Session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission has been meeting at the OIC headquarters in Jeddah from May 22 until 26.

On Tuesday it held a thematic debate entitled “The Role of National Human Rights Institutions in the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the OIC Countries.”

During the session panelists, OIC representatives and observer members of non-OIC countries have been discussing the human rights situation in the world and in the OIC countries, Islamophobia, the right to the development of women rights and more.

Marghoob Saleem Butt, IPHRC’s executive director, told Arab News that every year, they choose a prominent subject to discuss: “These sessions are an exchange of interaction on a certain subject between countries.”

Over the years, the commission has been vocal in condemning hate-motivated acts against Muslims worldwide in such places as Palestine, Kashmir, Nagorno Karabagh, India, Sri Lanka, France, Western Thrace, New Zealand and the Central African Republic.

Dr. Haci Ali Acikgul, the OIC-IPHRC’s chairperson, said: “The Commission recognizes NHRIs are a vital part of the national human rights protection mechanisms. By raising awareness, providing advice, monitoring and holding authorities to account, NHRIs play a central role in mitigating modern-day human rights challenges of discrimination and inequality as well as novel issues such as the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights of affected individuals.”

The commission considers that practical cooperation with civil society groups, especially NHRIs, can help to increase its visibility and operational outreach for the performance of its mandated tasks.

This week OIC-IPHRC signed two memoranda of understanding aimed at technical cooperation between the NHRIs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Uzbekistan to undertake joint activities of mutual interest and strengthen institutional capacities.

The first MoU was signed by Abdulaziz Abdullah Al-Khayal, vice president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, and the second one was signed by Mirzatilla Tillabayev, first deputy director of the National Human Rights Center of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Al-Khayal told Arab News that every state and organization has its own definition regarding human rights, which can focus on women, children, people with disability, criminal justice, and so on. “We believe that such MoU contribute to the growth of national capabilities by exchanging knowledge between the two countries and develop the sector nationally and internationally,” Al-Khayal said.

In front of more than 30 OIC representatives and observers, presentations on the theme of the session were delivered by the five panelists. They were Dr. Eng. Mohammed Saif Al-Kuwari from Qatar, vice-chairman of the National Human Rights Committee and member of the Governance Committee of the Asia Pacific Forum; Vladlen Stefanov, head of the National Institutions, Regional Mechanisms and Civil Society section of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Mazhar Hussain, director of the Economic and Social Research Department at the Statistical, Economic and Social Research and Training Center for Islamic Countries in Ankara; Ahmad Taufan Damanik, chairperson of the National Commission on Human Rights of Indonesia; and Mohammed Sabri, adviser to the Cabinet of the President of the National Human Rights Council in Morocco.

This was followed by an open discussion between the commissioners, representatives of OIC Member and Observer States, and their NHRIs.

Dr. Aboubacarr Jah, The Gambia’s deputy permanent representative at the OIC Saudi Arabia, said: “Human rights are crucial and imperative. However, it’s time to look at human wrongs and correct them.” He said the Republic of The Gambia was calling for justice for the Rohingyas of Myanmar.

“Once human rights are mentioned it is difficult to bury the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” he said.

“Monstrous human wrongs have been perpetrated against Palestinians for 74 years today. Not 74 days, weeks, or months but 74 Years! How long is this inhuman, atrocious, and abhorrent act of inhumane aggression by the Israeli government going to go on?” he asked.

Jah stressed the importance of Muslim Ummah bonds: “United we are strong and shall win,” he said.

The commission regularly invites NHRIs of all OIC Member States to participate in its activities and encourages them to collaborate with their respective governments to hold joint activities.

Acikgul said, “I hope that today’s discussion will inspire the Member States to further intensify their commitment to strengthen the capacities and capabilities of their respective NHRIs with the overall aim of nurturing human rights-respecting and preserving societies.”

A joint IPHRC and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights workshop titled “The Role of NHRIs in International Human Rights Mechanisms” was held on Wednesday.

The commission will issue an outcome document on the topic of the thematic debate based on the week’s discussions on the final day of the session.


Saudi students prepare for PISA 2022 test

Saudi students prepare for PISA 2022 test
Updated 25 May 2022

Saudi students prepare for PISA 2022 test

Saudi students prepare for PISA 2022 test
  • The OECD administers the PISA exam every three years

RIYADH: Saudi students are preparing to take the PISA test, an international performance metric conducted by the OECD to measure educational levels in 15-year-olds around the world.

The test will be completed virtually by 600,000 students from 80 countries.

It is the second time that the test will be conducted in the Kingdom after the initial launch in 2018.

From May 29 to 30, the PISA will be offered electronically in general education classrooms, focusing on computing and linguistic abilities.

The PISA is a set of studies administered every three years to a random sample of students at the target age to assess their abilities in reading, science and mathematics.

The application of the PISA in the Kingdom falls within the framework of the efforts of the Ministry of Education to improve graduates in the educational process. The results of the test will provide useful indicators to improve the Kingdom’s education system.

Prof. Ahmed Abdulrahman Al-Juhaimi, president of the National Institute for Educational Professional Development, said that the electronic professional development program for mathematics, science and reading for teachers will improve the skills of PISA students. The program allows educators to transfer their experience to students using more influential methods.

Al-Juhaimi told Arab News that one of the program’s most important features is its “great flexibility,” since teachers can attend the program at any time and from any location.

Prof. Ahmed Abdulrahman Al-Juhaimi, president of the National Institute for Educational Professional Development. (Supplied)

He added that the program’s training modules are designed to help teachers acquire targeted skills in mathematics, reading, and natural sciences to improve their performance, which reflects on the level of students and contributes to supporting student learning outcomes.

The OECD administers the PISA exam every three years. The Saudi Ministry of Education will oversee the test.

Al-Juhaimi said that e-training is an opportunity for teachers in the targeted disciplines because it is self-motivated, not limited by place or time, and is available to any teacher of the three subjects.

Furthermore, teachers are provided three chances to do unit-related assessments and an overall review of the program based on their specialist sector to assist self-learning.

Al-Juhaimi said that the regulations of NIEPD, issued in November 2019, support the professionalization of public education and raise the level of educational practices in the Kingdom.

However, he said that there are numerous challenges confronting mathematics and science education. These include the need to modernize standards and identify the training needs of each specialty.

Al-Juhaimi added that one of the most important enablers for teacher development is the integration of training into the school curricula. Another enabler is linking the school curricula with teacher training programs within the school, and linking professional development with performance evaluation as well as promotions to ensure demand. Supporting electronic training, encouraging self-evaluation and strengthening professional learning communities for teachers is also important, he said.

He said that the institute’s projects for teacher development include establishing scientific forums, developing the workforce, training school leaders and launching programs for educational professional development practitioners.


Saudi FM meets Ukrainian counterpart on sidelines of Davos forum

Saudi FM meets Ukrainian counterpart on sidelines of Davos forum
Updated 25 May 2022

Saudi FM meets Ukrainian counterpart on sidelines of Davos forum

Saudi FM meets Ukrainian counterpart on sidelines of Davos forum

RIYADH: Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan met his Ukranian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba on the sidelines of his participation in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the Saudi Press Agency reported Wednesday.   

During the meeting, the ministers discussed the latest developments of the crisis in Ukraine. 

Prince Faisal emphasized Saudi Arabia's support for everything that contributes to de-escalating the conflict, protecting civilians, in addition to negotiations that would reach a political solution, as well as all international efforts to resolve the crisis politically.

On Tuesday, Prince Faisal called for global dialogue and cooperation during a panel at the World Economic Forum, which tackled the global geopolitical outlook in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“If we learned anything on COVID-19, it is that we need to focus on cooperation, we need to continue to look toward avenues to foster cooperation,” the top Saudi diplomat said. 


Weather forecasters warn of more sandstorms coming as dust shrouds Riyadh again

Weather forecasters warn of more sandstorms coming as dust shrouds Riyadh again
Updated 25 May 2022

Weather forecasters warn of more sandstorms coming as dust shrouds Riyadh again

Weather forecasters warn of more sandstorms coming as dust shrouds Riyadh again
  • Back-to-back sandstorms blanket region, sending thousands to hospitals with breathing issues

RIYADH: Weather forecasters warned on Tuesday that more sandstorms were on the way after Riyadh was again shrouded in choking dust.

The National Center for Meteorology issued weather alerts for the Saudi capital, extending to the Madinah region and the governorates of Yanbu, Al-Rais and Yanbu Al-Nakhl. There will also be dust storms in AlUla and Khaybar.

“Dust particles in the north, center, and southern and interior regions will persist,” center spokesman Hussain Al-Qahtani told Arab News.

More than 1,200 people this month have gone to hospitals in the Kingdom suffering from breathing difficulties, but the phenomenon is region wide. Severe sandstorms have blanketed parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Kuwait for the past month. The storms have sent thousands to hospitals and resulted in at least one death in Iraq and three in eastern Syria.

Sandstorms are typical in late spring and summer, spurred by seasonal winds, but this year in Iraq they have occurred nearly every week.

The Iraqi Health Ministry stockpiled canisters of oxygen at facilities in hard-hit areas.

In Syria, medical departments were put on alert as the sandstorm hit the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.

Iran shut down schools and government offices in Tehran last week as a sandstorm swept the country.

It hit hardest in the southwest desert region of Khuzestan, where over 800 people sought treatment for breathing difficulties. Dozens of flights out of western Iran were canceled or delayed.

For the second time this month, Kuwait International Airport suspended all flights because of the dust. Video showed largely empty streets with poor visibility.

“It’s a region-wide issue but each country has a different degree of vulnerability and weakness,” said Jaafar Jotheri, a geoarchaeologist at the University of Al-Qadisiyah in Baghdad.