UN food agency director hails Saudi Arabia’s ‘most important’ aid efforts in Yemen

Yemen is ‘unfortunately going to have the biggest impact because you are already looking at an economy that’s anemic, a population that has almost no buying power. (AFP)
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Yemen is ‘unfortunately going to have the biggest impact because you are already looking at an economy that’s anemic, a population that has almost no buying power. (AFP)
UN food agency director hails Saudi Arabia’s ‘most important’ aid efforts in Yemen
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WFP Country Director in Yemen Richard Ragan speaking to Arab News. (AN photo Ali Mohammad Aldhahri)
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Updated 11 May 2022

UN food agency director hails Saudi Arabia’s ‘most important’ aid efforts in Yemen

There are over 4 million people who have been internally displaced because of the conflict. (AFP)
  • Truce gives hope for future with Yemen at crossroads after 7 years of war: World Food Program’s Richard Ragan

RIYADH: The UN World Food Program’s representative in Yemen has hailed crucial Saudi efforts in helping the organization to meet the war-torn country’s urgent sustenance needs.

In an exclusive interview, Richard Ragan told Arab News that the Kingdom had played a vital part in maintaining food supplies to the Yemeni people.

The country director said: “The role of Saudi Arabia is one of the most important if not the most important, it’s a neighbor. So clearly, it’s in the interest of Saudi Arabia to have a stable border.

“The humanitarian assistance that we have been provided with by the Saudis in the past has been critical. They are essential in terms of financial partner, humanitarian partner, political partner.




WFP Country Director in Yemen Richard Ragan speaking to Arab News. (AN photo by Ali Mohammad Aldhahri)

“We really can’t do the kind of program that we need to effectively run in Yemen without the partnership with Saudi Arabia. So that’s why I am in the Kingdom. It’s the first country I have visited since I took charge three months ago. For me, it’s the most important place,” he added.

Ragan also singled out the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center for special praise.

He said: “KSrelief is important in the humanitarian world; they are unique. Most of our partners just give money, but the KSrelief is different; they do projects. They are present in Yemen and very knowledgeable about the dynamics that are going on, particularly in the southern part of the strife-torn country.”

The UN official noted that the WFP viewed the center important in two ways, “as partners to do the work, who are very knowledgeable about how to execute effective programs, and also as very good financial partners.”




Richard Ragan noted that among major donor countries, Saudi Arabia had always been one of the most generous. (Supplied)

He added: “After seven years of war, nothing works in Yemen, the state has in many ways ceased to function. So, without the kind of work that KSrelief does in the healthcare sector, millions of people would go without healthcare. So, it’s one of the real fundamental things.”

On the current situation in Yemen, he said: “For the UN World Food Program, we are feeding slightly over half of Yemen’s population. For us, it’s the biggest program in the world, it’s the biggest program that, historically, WFP has ever run. So, the scale of what we have been trying to do, to keep people alive with food in Yemen, is pretty immense.”

Ragan noted that he had been living in Yemen for three months. “But the one thing I think that is most evident is that there is hope because of the truce. I think Yemen is at a crossroads after seven years of war. And that crossroads is either to return to war, strife, and conflict or to take the other path and move toward peace.

“We really can’t do the kind of program that we need to effectively run in Yemen without the partnership with Saudi Arabia. So that’s why I am in the Kingdom. It’s the first country I have visited since I took charge three months ago. For me, it’s the most important place”

Richard Ragan, UN World Food Program’s representative in Yemen

“So far, it seems like the truce is holding; there are small incidents where there’s conflict. There was an unfortunate attack three days ago in Taiz, where people were celebrating, a building was attacked next to a park, and some people were killed. That’s the sort of thing that’s not good for a truce,” he added.

He pointed out the progress of confidence-building measures negotiated between parties in the UN.

“Fuel ships are discharging in the port, so that the gas shortages that were evident from Jan. 1 through to the end of March have abated, which for us at the WFP was also critical because we weren’t really able to do our work without fuel.”

A two-month ceasefire was announced in April as agreed by warring parties in Yemen.

Ragan said: “We needed fuel, so that part of the puzzle has been answered. I would say our ability to kind of function in the country and deliver food, even during the conflict, has been pretty good. We are feeding between 10 and 15 million people per month.”

In addition to providing people with food, he highlighted the work going on to run the airport for humanitarian needs.

“We have something called the UN humanitarian air service, including for NGO (non-governmental organization) partners and UN agencies. It’s a really big part of what air traffic is going into the country. We also have vessels that we move back and forth from Jeddah that carry humanitarian supplies for people.

“We do a broad range of things that aren’t just about food. We run the telecommunication services for the UN agencies and NGO partners. So, it’s big and it’s an expensive program for the WFP.

“It’s about the equivalent of $200 million per month to do our complete body of work. The funding, part of our operations this year, has not been as generous. So far, we have raised 25 percent of what we need. So, we have to start cutting rations into groups,” he added.

Ragan noted that among major donor countries, Saudi Arabia had always been one of the most generous, besides the US and Germany. “The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) states have been there with us so far, and we are hopeful that it’s coming pretty soon for the future.”

The UN’s Humanitarian Response Plan, recently announced for this year, was seeking around $4 billion in contributions, of which the WFP makes up half.

He said: “In previous years, we have made up more than half of it because food is clearly the most important, and we are feeding people, we bring in wheat in the port. We mill it as fast as we get it. And then it’s out, so we don’t even have stocks that we can store. The requirements are so big.

“I have been in the WFP for 22 years and have managed some of our biggest operations in the world, but nowhere nearly as big and complicated as what we are doing in Yemen.”

Ragan pointed out that the conflict in Ukraine was having an impact on the entire world.

“Yemen is, unfortunately, one of the places that it’s going to have the biggest impact because you are already looking at an economy that’s anemic, you are looking at a population that has almost no buying power. There are over 4 million people who have been internally displaced because of the conflict.

“My most urgent message to the world is please don’t forget Yemen. It’s still one of the potentially biggest catastrophes on the planet. The world’s attention is shifted to Ukraine. But don’t forget Yemen because there is a real opportunity for peace.

“This is the first time since the conflict started, where there is more hope for peace, the people that I have talked to, that’s what they want.

“Certainly, the citizens of Yemen want it. They are tired of conflict, they are tired of bombings, they want to be able to educate their kids, and they want to be able to visit their relatives.

“They are desperate to be able to move, just to do the basic things that we enjoy that they can’t. So, I think there is a lot of hope on the part of the average Yemeni that this conflict is going to stop,” Ragan added.


Special fun-filled activities lined up for young Jeddah Season visitors

The Blippi- branded activity corner allows kids to learn and explore new concepts followed by a photo session. (Supplied)
The Blippi- branded activity corner allows kids to learn and explore new concepts followed by a photo session. (Supplied)
Updated 21 May 2022

Special fun-filled activities lined up for young Jeddah Season visitors

The Blippi- branded activity corner allows kids to learn and explore new concepts followed by a photo session. (Supplied)
  • Little Village zones feature favorite characters Peppa Pig, Blippi, L.O.L Surprise!

JEDDAH: A fun-filled agenda awaits children at the Jeddah Pier amusement park, one of the entertainment attractions at this year’s Jeddah Season festival of activities.

The specially created Little Village large play area offers games and events for youngsters through to June 28 in three activity zones featuring children’s characters Peppa Pig, Blippi, and L.O.L Surprise!

The Blippi-branded activity corner allows kids to learn and explore new concepts, and the iconic Blippi appeared for a soft opening of the Little Village during which visitors took part in a meet and greet, followed by a photo session.

The L.O.L Surprise! activity corner gives girls the opportunity to wear their favorite dresses, enjoy hair and makeup sessions, and try out cooking, singing, and dancing, and special fashion shows let little fashionistas take a ramp walk.

Meanwhile, the Peppa Pig activity corner has a range of activities including painting classes and the chance to play in the cartoon character’s grocery store.

Fadi Yousuf, site manager of Hwadi Events, Jeddah Pier’s organizing company, said: “Packed with wonderful and imaginative activities, we aim to create memories that will turn the Jeddah Season into a world of unforgettable stories for children.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The specially created Little Village large play area offers games and events for youngsters through to June 28 in three activity zones featuring children’s characters Peppa Pig, Blippi, and L.O.L Surprise!

• Jeddah Pier, open daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., offers 39 entertainment attractions, seven diverse international experiences, and a roller coaster, among a host of other events. And musical parades including acrobats, and people dressed as trees, zombies, and track-suited monkeys are an integral part of the zone’s events.

“With the help of Spacetoon, we were delighted to bring the much-loved character Blippi to Jeddah and receive an amazing response from the fans.

“Apart from enjoying the activities, kids will be able to purchase Blippi, L.O.L Surprise!, and Peppa Pig products onsite.”

Jeddah Pier, open daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., offers 39 entertainment attractions, seven diverse international experiences, and a roller coaster, among a host of other events.

And musical parades including acrobats, and people dressed as trees, zombies, and track-suited monkeys are an integral part of the zone’s events.

Jeddah Season will also be hosting a toy festival running until May 23 at Jeddah Superdome, the world’s largest geodesic dome without pillars, and kids who missed meeting Blippi at Jeddah Pier will get another chance at the festival.

More than 40 international toy brands are attending the event that will include stands and exhibitions, live shows, and performances of the Smurfs, Sonic, Peppa Pig, and other character favorites.

The annual Jeddah Season festival aims to highlight the city’s rich heritage and culture through a total of 2,800 activities in nine zones over the event period.

Being held under the slogan, Our Lovely Days, the second Jeddah Season follows on from the success of Riyadh Season that recorded more than 15 million visits over five months.

The festival season offers 70 interactive experiences, more than 60 recreational activities, seven Arab and two international plays, marine events, a circus, four international exhibitions, and a host of other services for families.


Saudi artists shed light on the resurgence of analog photography

Analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers. (Supplied)
Analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers. (Supplied)
Updated 20 May 2022

Saudi artists shed light on the resurgence of analog photography

Analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers. (Supplied)
  • While analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers, there is still a shortage of labs and studios accessible to the public

RIYADH: At a time when one might view analog photography as an outdated craft, it is, in fact, becoming increasingly popular across the world, including in Saudi Arabia.

“Photos are the closest humanity has gotten to time travel,” said photographer Abdullah Al-Azzaz, whose has followed in the footsteps of his father, Saleh, who was also a photographer.

The newly established Bayt Al-Malaz — a creative space in the heart of Riyadh’s Malaz District — recently hosted an intriguing conversation about the significance and popularity of analog photography between Al-Azzaz and Princess Reem Al-Faisal, moderated by Sarah Assiri. The event was part of Bayt Al-Malaz’s “Moflmeen” discussion series.

HIGHLIGHT

While analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers, there is still a shortage of labs and studios accessible to the public. In Riyadh, the number of studios where film can be developed has fallen from four to just a single space — Haitham Studios. This is largely due to the financial cost of establishing such a studio and the turnaround time for film development.

The two photographers addressed the issue of why — when digital cameras are so ubiquitous and easy to use — analog is making a comeback.

“My photography revolves around permanence, praise, eternality, and the spiritual side of us. The individual is a soul and not a body,” said Al-Faisal. “For us, film represents the soul. We are all born with natural instincts, and film, in its natural form, is untouched. It represents the soul that transforms after birth in dealing with life, accumulations, and memories — bad and good. It’s a way of expressing humanity.”

Al-Azzaz said that, for him, it was more about the technique than the philosophy of it all. “The experience of developing in a darkroom is so enriching. It separates you from the world, totally quiet and dark. It’s just you and the photo. It allows you to reflect on the photo more and gives you more freedom in reimagining it,” he said.

Photo manipulation, he explained, is not exclusive to digital photography. Before the existence of Photoshop, images could be manipulated in the darkroom using retouching techniques and tools, including cropping, brushing, dodging, burning and masking.

To really understand the true art of photography, some would argue, it is important to learn its history. Digital photography is not a replacement for film, but another medium entirely. “In any art, not just photography, we have to have a cultural, historical, and technical awareness… we are all an accumulation,” said Al-Faisal. “We are a product of our society and a product of our time. We cannot claim we aren’t affected [by these things]. Whoever claims otherwise is delusional.”

While analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers, there is still a shortage of labs and studios accessible to the public. In Riyadh, the number of studios where film can be developed has fallen from four to just a single space — Haitham Studios. This is largely due to the financial cost of establishing such a studio and the turnaround time for film development.

The founder of the studio, Haitham Al-Sharif, explained the immersive nature of analog photography. “I chose film photography because I hated having no connection with my photos. With film photography, I take a max of 40 photos in a session. I can’t see them; I have to live in the moment, I have to listen and smell the streets, I have to talk to my subject if I’m taking their portraits, I have to listen to the music if I’m at a concert,” he told Arab News. “To me, that is art. That is the beauty of film.”

The lengthy process involved in analog photography can be intimidating and off-putting to amateur photographers. That’s why the development of the first digital camera in 1975 was so groundbreaking. Now, in an economy driven by content creation and visual media, content production is easier — and quicker — than ever before. But to some, the key difference lies in the creative experience itself. Some analog photographers suggest it is a way to truly connect with the moment, even if the results are not always what society deems ‘Insta-worthy.’

“When you can’t see the photo you aren’t forced to change it to make it the same as what the media thinks is good or what a magazine thinks is good. Film forces you to be patient and slow. It forces you to live in the (moment),” said Al-Sharif. “As a film photographer, you live in front of the lens as much as at the back of the lens. You become more connected to what you are photographing.”


Europe keen to advance level of partnership with Saudi Arabia: Envoy

EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet with delegates at the Europe Day reception in Riyadh. (Supplied)
EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet with delegates at the Europe Day reception in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Updated 20 May 2022

Europe keen to advance level of partnership with Saudi Arabia: Envoy

EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet with delegates at the Europe Day reception in Riyadh. (Supplied)
  • EU unveils first long-term strategy to shape future Gulf ties

RIYADH: The European Union’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet confirmed on Friday that the bloc is keen to boost its partnership with the Kingdom.

The EU unveiled its first long-term strategy to shape future Gulf ties on Wednesday, when the High Representative and the European Commission adopted a joint communication — “Strategic Partnership with the Gulf.”

EU ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet cutting cake on Europe Day at Cultural Palace, in DQ Riyadh. (Supplied)

“At a time of insecurity and significant challenges to the rules-based international order, aggravated by Russia’s war on Ukraine, the European Union and Gulf countries stand to gain from a stronger and more strategic partnership stretching over a number of key areas. We need to work more closely together on stability in the Gulf and the Middle East, on global security threats, energy security, climate change and the green transition, digitalization, trade and investment. We also need to strengthen contacts between students, researchers, businesses and citizens,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said as he unveiled the plan.

The long-term strategy — the first of its kind between the two groups — will be pivotal to EU- GCC relations. We need each other. The EU and the GCC have a lot to gain in reinforcing the partnership.

Patrick Simonnet, EU ambassador to Saudi Arabia

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Simonnet said: “The long-term strategy — the first of its kind between the two groups — will be pivotal to EU-GCC relations. We need each other. The EU and the GCC have a lot to gain in reinforcing the partnership. That’s what we felt in different visits over the last 12 months. There was a realization that we had a common interest in stepping up our partnership. It’s about the economy, how we can better support our respective strategies, Saudi Vision 2030, and EU Green Deal.

“We have been importing fossil fuel from Saudi Arabia for a long time. We are going to continue, but we would like to switch to a more sustainable consumption of renewable energy. We know that the Gulf has enormous potential to export renewable energies, including green hydrogen. Saudi Arabia has made huge investments and is keen to be a global supplier of hydrogen, and it would be very useful for us to import this green hydrogen to achieve our own climate change targets. It would also be good for the Kingdom, for its own climate change targets. So there’s a very good match that we can have between us,” he continued.

“We can work together on the regional crisis, there is a great deal of alignment between our views on the Middle East peace process, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Lebanon… The strategy proposes that we work even more closely together on regional stability issues. Security cooperation is also very important. We wanted to have a strategy which was more political, more security oriented. We are negotiating the JCPOA (the Iran nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), and if we can have a positive outcome (there), we could build on that to hopefully contribute even more to stability and security in the Gulf,” said the EU envoy.

“We are the biggest provider of foreign direct investment here, and the GCC is the second-biggest trading partner for the EU, so we will look at how to re-engage on the free trade agreement (FTA),” Simonnet added.

The joint communication also aims to improve cooperation in higher education and culture. One of the goals is to attract more Saudi students to Europe and European students or teachers to the Kingdom, he explained.

Another goal, according to Simonnet, is “visa-free travel to Europe” for all countries. “We are very much aware that visa liberalization could help the exchanges between both sides,” he said.

He added: “I met Saudi travel bloggers a few days back. It was interesting to discuss all the hidden gems in Saudi Arabia in terms of tourism, the places where we could bring a lot more tourists, and the same thing in Europe — there are many more destinations in Europe that could be discovered by Saudi tourists, so visa liberalization is important.”

In future, according to the joint communication, there will be more regular meetings at ministerial levels between EU and GCC foreign ministers and ministers of energy.

“Europe is proposing to step up the game of relations,” said the envoy, adding that the EU will increase its diplomatic delegations in the region, expanding on its existing delegations in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait.
 


Saudi Arabia sends 25 tons of dates to Kyrgyzstan

Saudi Arabia sends 25 tons of dates to Kyrgyzstan. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia sends 25 tons of dates to Kyrgyzstan. (SPA)
Updated 21 May 2022

Saudi Arabia sends 25 tons of dates to Kyrgyzstan

Saudi Arabia sends 25 tons of dates to Kyrgyzstan. (SPA)
  • KSrelief distributed 700 food baskets in Somaliland, benefiting 40,200 individuals, and 400 food baskets to people in Sarkhrud, Afghanistan, benefiting hundreds of families

BISHKEK: Saudi Arabia has sent 25 tons of dates to Kyrgyzstan as a gift. The dates were delivered by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center at an event attended by Saudi Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Ibrahim bin Radi Al-Radi and other officials.

Recently, KSrelief also delivered 50 tons of dates to the Maldives.

Maldivian Islamic Minister Dr. Ahmed Zahir Ali thanked the Saudi government for the gift, noting that it reflected the close ties between the two countries.

The gifts are part of the humanitarian aid programs provided by the Saudi government to a number of countries, with the aim of benefitting vulnerable families in different regions of the world.

KSrelief also distributed 700 food baskets in Somaliland, benefiting 40,200 individuals, and 400 food baskets to people in Sarkhrud, Afghanistan, benefiting hundreds of families.

The center is also continuing to roll out its water supply and environmental projects in Yemen’s Hajjah and Saada governorates. In one month, more than 15 million liters of water was pumped into tanks across the two regions.

KSrelief has implemented 1,997 projects worth nearly $6 billion in 83 countries since its inception in May 2015, in cooperation with 175 partners.

The areas that have benefited most from the center’s projects are Yemen ($4 billion), Palestine ($369 million), Syria ($327 million) and Somalia ($216 million).

 


Saudi aid agency reviews project to protect women in Yemen

KSrelief reviews project to protect women in Yemen. (SPA)
KSrelief reviews project to protect women in Yemen. (SPA)
Updated 21 May 2022

Saudi aid agency reviews project to protect women in Yemen

KSrelief reviews project to protect women in Yemen. (SPA)
  • The center’s humanitarian work is carried out with the cooperation of 175 partners, including UN organizations, as well as local and international NGOs

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center recently took part virtually in a final conference to review a project aimed at protecting and empowering women and girls affected by gender-based violence in Yemen.

The center was represented by Mubarak bin Saeed Al-Dossari, director of the branches department at KSrelief, who said that projects offered by the center had helped 114 million women in 73 countries, at a total cost of almost $534 million.

He said that the center’s humanitarian work is carried out with the cooperation of 175 partners, including UN organizations, as well as local and international NGOs.

Projects and programs offered by the center are customized depending on the beneficiaries and their individual circumstances, Al-Dossari said.

Since its establishment in 2015, KSrelief has been a leading center for relief and humanitarian work, conveying the Kingdom’s values ​​to the world, he added.

Al-Dossari expressed the center’s pride in cooperating with UN Women to ensure knowledge-based sustainability in areas in which they provide protection and empowerment, especially in conflict situations.

Dina Zorba, UN Women representative in Iraq and Yemen, thanked KSrelief for funding the project, as well as designing seven training manuals in accordance with international standards aimed at raising the efficiency of women’s support and protection centers.

The project aims to establish centers for the protection and empowerment of women, and train workers to provide protection programs for women affected by gender-based violence in the governorates of Aden and Taiz.

It also seeks to develop resources, training materials and guides to ensure knowledge-based sustainability.