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

Special 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)
Special 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)
Special 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)
Special 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. 
Special 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


US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance

US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance
Updated 01 July 2022

US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance

US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance
  • They were visiting the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue, the leader of which stressed the importance of communication and dialogue in building bridges between cultures

RIYADH: A visiting US delegation led by Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, Washington’s special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism, was briefed this week on the work of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue.

After being welcomed to the center by its secretary-general, Abdullah Al-Fawzan, and other senior representatives, the delegates were given a brief presentation about its activities designed to promote and encourage greater tolerance among peoples.

They were also briefed on the results of the first study of its kind in the region on tolerance, carried out by the center to the highest scientific standards, which found that Saudi society is tolerant of other cultures and civilizations.

In greeting the visitors on Tuesday, Al-Fawzan stressed the importance of encouraging communication and dialogue between peoples, to help build bridges of understanding among cultures, as part of the efforts being made by the Kingdom, through its Saudi Vision 2030 development plan, to support tolerance and promote peaceful coexistence based on the principles of moderate Islam.

He said that Saudi society accepts and coexists with people from other societies and cultures, as evidenced by the large number of expatriates who live and work in the Kingdom. This shows that the values of tolerance, peaceful coexistence and unity are not new concepts in the country, he added.

Since its inception, the center has placed great importance in promoting the values of citizenship among among all sections of society, making it a mainstay of its work, Al-Fawzan said.

The members of the US delegation were also given a tour of the center’s Interactive Dialogue Exhibition so that they could learn more about the Kingdom’s efforts to support communications between cultures and civilizations. They also heard about local projects developed by the center to help strengthen the nation’s social fabric, and its regional and global initiatives designed to help build and enhance cultural diversity and human commonalities.


Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference

Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference
Updated 30 June 2022

Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference

Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference

RIYADH: Speaker of the Saudi Shoura Council Sheikh Dr. Abdullah Al-Sheikh is heading the Kingdom’s delegation to the first conference of the Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network, which began on Thursday in Baku, Azerbaijan, with the participation of several parliament speakers from NAM member states.

Al-Sheikh said in a press statement that the council’s participation in the conference is an affirmation of Saudi Arabia’s keenness to achieve security, peace and sustainable development globally.

Speaker of the Saudi Shoura Council Sheikh Dr. Abdullah Al Al-Sheikh is heading the Kingdom’s delegation to the first conference of the Parliamentary Network of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which began on Thursday in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Supplied)

The Kingdom’s participation also highlights its constructive partnership with other countries, the solutions it aims to provide to international crises and the humanitarian work it carries out, Al-Sheikh pointed out.

He stressed that international parliamentary conferences are essential in facing global challenges and achieving cooperation across borders.

The NAM Parliamentary Network was established on the sidelines of the 143rd General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, held in Madrid. It aims to provide a framework for cooperation between the parliaments of NAM member states, with the participation of several other international organizations.


Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic

Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic
Updated 30 June 2022

Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic

Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic
  • The pandemic put a halt to the Hajj for two years, leading to huge losses for some families who solely depended on the pilgrimage season to reap its financial rewards

MAKKAH: Residents of Makkah benefit financially during the Hajj as millions of people from all over the world converge on the holy city to perform the annual pilgrimage.  

But the pandemic put a halt to the Hajj for two years, leading to huge losses for some families who solely depended on the pilgrimage season to reap its financial rewards.  

Elaf Al-Mashaer, a local five-star hotel, is all set to welcome over 20,000 pilgrims this year, and the team has prepared the place to be as comfortable as possible to ensure a smooth stay for guests.

“We must know the number of guests who will stay in the hotel and their nationalities so that we can provide them with what they need,” hotel owner Abdulaziz Al-Sharbeeni told Arab News.

The 304-room establishment has several restaurants to cater to guests’ palates. “Each nationality has its own culture or a certain way of eating. We have Indian, Pakistani, East Asian, and Arabic restaurants.”

(Supplied)

It has also made modifications and preparations to make the rooms and suites accessible to people with disabilities.

“Some pilgrims come alone, so we give them a room on request, while others come with their families, so we give them a suite,” Al-Sharbeeni said. “There is a target we must achieve during the Hajj season as a facility, and the most important seasons in the year to achieve these financial goals are the Ramadan and Hajj seasons.”

The Hajj season attracts a large and diverse crowd, and everyone who visits Makkah enjoys shopping for gifts. They also use taxis, hospitals, restaurants, and other services and amenities, providing locals with many economic opportunities.

“I sell gold in the local market, and Hajj season is considered our opportunity to reach the target. So I’m more than happy that Hajj is back because we miss the pilgrims and we love interacting with them and welcoming them,” said Ahmed Al-Suliman.

Al-Suliman said there were more opportunities for work during the Hajj as significant manpower was required to serve, manage, and help with the influx of pilgrims.

“The people of Makkah, in particular, want to take advantage of the Hajj season. Young and old are working this season, and even if someone sells a bottle of water for SR1 ($0.27), he will earn a lot of money. You can apply for seasonal field jobs through the website of the Ministry of Hajj and the official platforms.”


Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj
Updated 30 June 2022

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj
  • Guests will be assigned incognito to help evaluate Hajj services according to a pre-studied scientific methodology

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has launched a performance initiative aimed at measuring pilgrims’ satisfaction at service provision during this year’s Hajj season.

Assistant deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, Hesham Saeed, signed a joint cooperation agreement with acting secretary-general of the coordination council, Dr. Abdullah Al-Muwaihi, in relation to the program.

Al-Muwaihi said the monitoring scheme would involve measuring quality-of-service performance and beneficiary satisfaction, while also including an incognito guest program, all designed to improve and enrich worshippers’ spiritual experience.

Under the incognito initiative, Saeed said a designated guest would, “serve as a pilgrim under mission, who lives the full experience of Hajj, starting from the country of the pilgrim, passing through the holy sites, and performing the rituals until they return to their country.

“The assigned incognito guest will be living all the details, seeing what contact points they pass through, and will give an evaluation according to a pre-studied scientific methodology regarding the measurement criteria,” he added.

 

 

 


A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022

A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022
Updated 30 June 2022

A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022

A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022
  • Pilgrims from outside the Kingdom must submit a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of their departure

JEDDAH: A million Muslims from around the world will perform the Hajj this year, in line with the quotas allocated to each country and following recommendations from the Saudi Ministry of Health.

The Hajj was limited to 60,000 vaccinated citizens and residents from the Kingdom in 2021 to contain the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety of pilgrims and others.

But, following Saudi Arabia's successful implementation of precautionary measures for Hajj and Umrah seasons during the pandemic, pilgrim capacity has been raised to 1 million.

This year's Hajj is for people aged 65 and under who must comply with the requirement to complete a COVID-19 vaccination program.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah tweeted that pilgrims from outside the Kingdom must submit a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of their departure for Saudi Arabia.

It said the shots required for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia included one for meningitis for people who had not been vaccinated in the past five years. They are also required to get the flu vaccine. Local pilgrims must take these vaccinations at least 10 days before going to the Hajj.

Figures from the General Authority of Statistics showed that, during the pandemic's peak in 2020, the number of pilgrims plummeted to just 1,000. The decision to restrict capacity was based on risk assessment and public health and safety concerns.  

There were almost 2.5 million pilgrims at the Hajj in 2019, and 1.9 million were from overseas.

The highest number of local and foreign Hajj pilgrims in the past decade was in 2012 when nearly 3.2 million people performed the annual pilgrimage. The lowest was 1.9 million in 2016.