How Saudi Arabia helps refugees

South Sudanese refugees in a reception camp near the border in Uganda, which hopes to give refugees a plot of land and teach them skills. (Getty Images)
Updated 28 March 2019

How Saudi Arabia helps refugees

  • The International Organization for Relief, Welfare and Development is offering displaced people sustainable support
  • IORWD chief Dr. Taha Al-Khateeb said the principle behind organization’s role in the process was to teach families “to fish” rather than provide them with fish every day

DUBAI: A Saudi relief organization is taking the lead in helping to tackle the biggest humanitarian crisis to face the world.

With a record 70 million people displaced around the globe, the Kingdom is working with the UN World Food Program to make life easier for struggling refugee families.

The country is taking a novel approach to the situation by running food-for-work projects in refugee camps in Sudan and many other countries.

The aim of the Saudi International Organization for Relief, Welfare and Development (IORWD) is to change the mindset in the way refugee families are supported, to improve their productivity and increase incomes.

“We want to gradually stop direct support and replace it with sustainable development, and improve the situation of these families,” said Dr. Taha Al-Khateeb, director-general of programs and welfare at the organization.

He was speaking at the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition (Dihad), which is themed “People on the Move” and aims to tackle the core issue of migration.

Al-Khateeb said the principle behind IORWD’s role in the process was to teach families “to fish” rather than provide them with fish every day.

It does this by offering interest-free loans of SR1,000 to SR5,000 ($265 to $1,333) per family. The first SR1,000 is a contribution towards the family’s needs, while the rest is repaid in installments, in a bid to support their work in handicrafts, cooking, and developing food products or clothes.

“These projects have been able to improve the capacity of families to provide for their needs,” Al-Khateeb said. “It’s a good but painful story — some families only need one product to improve their productivity, so our aim is to ensure they become productive and not needy.”

So far, the project has been implemented in three camps in Sudan, with more planned.

“We are trying to change the mindset in the way we provide support to these families,” he added. “We prefer to go through development programs to help them improve their productivity and increase their income. We are still working on improving our (approach).”

The organization also works with 100 refugee families in camps in Lebanon, providing them with education, health care and relief. During Ramadan, meals are offered to those fasting, as well as for Eid.

In total, the IORWD has sponsored 5,111 Syrian and Palestinian orphans in Lebanon and Jordan, as well as 1,638 Palestinian students in Egypt, Jordan and Yemen, 351 teachers and 40 educational institutes in Palestine. It also distributed 2,000 uniforms and school bags to Palestinian students in Palestine.

IORWD’s principle is to teach refugee families “to fish” rather than provide them with fish every day. (Getty Images)

In Bangladesh, the organization supports six schools for refugees, including 42 teachers and 2,000 students, as well as 200 Syrian students in Turkish refugee camps with SR2.25 million. In Yemen, it sponsors another six Eritrean refugee teachers.

“We must treat all migrants with the dignity and respect they deserve,” Al-Khateeb said. “In the Qur’an, it states that we are all treated equal and it requires us to be respectful towards migrants.

“The most vulnerable groups of migrants are children and those subject to exploitation,” he said. “It’s important to manage their situation well, and the same can be said about women.”

Of the millions fleeing their countries, 80 percent are women, youths and children and many are at risk of human trafficking. According to the US Congressional Research Service and the US State Department, up to 2 million people are trafficked annually worldwide, mostly from Asia.

“Not only is migration a deeply sensitive issue at the top of international and governmental agendas across the world, but the drivers and dynamics of movements are becoming ever more complex,” said Antonio Vitorino, director-general of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at the opening of Dihad.

With 13 million people affected by the crisis in Syria and 5.5 million refugees in surrounding countries, such as Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt, large-scale movements of people driven by diverse motivations have posed political and humanitarian challenges to the international community in recent years.

“It taught us that regional solidarity towards hosting those in need is the first and most important element of an international humanitarian response,” Vitorino said.

“We must learn to identify and effectively respond to the needs of the vulnerable on the move, both refugees and migrants, and to maintain the credibility of international systems of cooperation and governance.”

Today, 25 percent of the Lebanese population are refugees from Syria and other countries, and more than 1 million Syrian refugees are into their ninth year in Lebanon.

As the factors affecting movements shift and deepen, countries are being urged to adapt. “The impact of environmental change will intensify and the effect on populations will spread,” Vitorino added. “While some groups will be directly and repeatedly affected by climate-induced disasters such as flooding, drought and extreme weather events, others will find themselves affected by growing desertification, coastal erosion and instability stemming from resource scarcity.”

When combined with continued inequality, ongoing political fragility and demographic change, Vitorino argued it was clear that large-scale internal and international movements are likely to become more frequent, as people search for sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families.

“We are confronting some of these problems and asking ourselves what this will mean for our work over the coming decades,” he added. “What will rapid urbanization mean for food delivery and how can cities become centers of innovation in delivering services, enabling diverse populations to thrive, and what proportion of the internally displaced that we see in the world today will become the vulnerable migrants and refugees of tomorrow?

“If we cannot meet their needs effectively, how can the established tools of migration management be updated to reflect the reality of increased mobility and transnationalism in today’s migration population?”

With more than 26 million refugees in the world today, the highest number in the past 50 years, time is of the essence. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has started working with regional governments to help alleviate the burden.

Last week, Amin Awad, director of the Middle East and North Africa Bureau and regional refugee coordinator at the UNHCR, visited Syria, “the epicenter of one of the largest crises of our time.”

His trip included visits to the capital Damascus, the city of Homs, and the village of Al-Hamah. “We are deeply concerned by the impact of the conflict on much of the population, those displaced and those who remained,” w said at the conference.

“The isolation and distance of services, livelihood and education have taken a toll on the population at large. We need more countries to share the burden.”

INTERVIEW: Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, the prince who wants everyone to be part of Saudi Arabia’s forward trajectory

Updated 21 min 48 sec ago

INTERVIEW: Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, the prince who wants everyone to be part of Saudi Arabia’s forward trajectory

  • The Saudi royal is a venture capitalist and a key supporter of entrepreneurship in the Kingdom

JEDDAH: Arab News recently got up close and personal with Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, a name that is often associated with successful business, entrepreneurial and humanitarian ventures.

Khaled bin Alwaleed has never conformed to the typical image of what a royal should be like, and he says this was down to his parents.

“It stems from how I grew up and what my parents instilled in me. They really emphasized how important it is to connect with people no matter what position in life they hold.”

He said that his mother used to get on with everyone in their household, from kitchen staff to gardeners, on a very personal level, giving each person importance and inclusion. “That connection — that characteristic — is probably one of the best examples of how I grew up.

“Sometimes I don’t act in the ‘proper’ manner that people expect. I’m here to do what I believe is right, and what I believe is right is being myself.”

He admits that in the past he had struggled with the conflict of how he should act to suit the persona expected of him. 

He admits that he struggled in the past to manage people’s expectations of him.

“I thought I should act in a certain way, do certain things that were expected of me, but were really alien to my personality and what I wanted to do for myself. In the end, what has worked best for me is being as honest and as genuine as possible.”

The Investor 

Prince Khaled founded his holding and investment company, KBW Ventures, in 2014, and he has made it his purpose to invest in a broad range of businesses, from technology start-ups to successful companies.

Prince Khaled doesn’t consider himself a renowned entrepreneur — he says calling him this would steal the thunder from everyone who started from scratch. He thinks of himself as more of a venture capitalist who supports entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

Before taking on a project, what he looks for most is the drive, knowledge, and commitment of the entrepreneur. 

“I look at how well they understand how to scale a particular business, and the business itself. It is important to know how well the founder (of the business) knows the industry, the numbers, competition, and how to best showcase their product or service and put it in front of the right audience.”


Name: Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud

Date of Birth: 21 April 1978

Education: Bachelor in business from the University of New Haven.

Current position: • Founder and CEO of KBW Ventures • Founder and Chairman of KBW Investments.

His advice to local businesses (and this applies to young entrepreneurs, as well) is to do their homework on the industry of the start-up, the potential verticals that exist, scalability, and to assess everything through due diligence before jumping into a project — at least that’s how he runs things.

“We should all want to be part of Saudi’s forward trajectory. My ideal situation is to put Saudi Arabia on the map as having the most successful track record for venture-backed companies. KBW Ventures has thankfully had a very good start but it doesn’t stop there. I want to partner with more Saudis to expose our entrepreneurs and our venture capitalists to international markets and international venture-backed companies. We’re not just an oil-rich country; we’re rich in entrepreneurship, we’re rich in innovation, and hopefully, quickly getting richer in terms of our history with venture-backed companies.”

He thinks the future is in the hands of the youth,  basing this view on how Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has changed things in Saudi Arabia.

“Mohammed bin Salman is the face of Saudi youth and its future — he has mobilized and invigorated the younger generation like no one before. I’ve never seen so many young people looking for a way to support the country and get involved — it is the best time for us as Saudis.”

Prince Khaled with King Salman

Prince Khaled has much more on his agenda, focusing on causes where he can make a difference such as “climate change, sustainability and animal welfare,” he said.

With KBW Ventures, he hopes to act as an ambassador to a healthier, more sustainable society.

The prince is also an enthusiastic humanitarian and vocal vegan, who has chosen to apply his beliefs to his lifestyle first.

“I started as a vegetarian many years ago and gradually transitioned my lifestyle completely; I’ve talked extensively about the health benefits and I think if people even adopt reducetarian measures it is great for the planet and for overall health and wellbeing.”

He said that at this point, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is no longer an option but a necessity. “I really feel the need to incorporate physical activity into my day and it’s matched with clean eating. No matter how busy you are, your health is the most necessary aspect as obviously if that isn’t a priority things fall apart very quickly. I work out daily and I eat well; that’s what fuels me to do what I do.

He has noticed the onslaught of GCC individuals going plant-based. He thinks that they are motivated by a combination of factors: the desire to live healthier and to live more humanely, in terms of being kinder to animals and reducing our damage to the earth. He is fully supportive of the General Sports Authority Chairman Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal with its mission of promoting mass sports participation and working on educating the health care system and citizens in general. “I’m not naïve enough to think the world is going to go vegan, it is not practical. Saudi is a very meat-centric culture; for the Saudi health problems of obesity and heart-related issues, I really encourage everyone to try a reducetarian diet by incorporating more fresh vegetables, legumes, basically just expand your eating horizons.”



Saudi Humane Society 

Prince Khaled’s latest move on a very resolute chessboard is taking on the role of the presidency at the Saudi Humane Society (Rifq, or SHS) in January 2019. He told Arab News: “I happily accepted the role as I believe I can add value there.”

Acting as one of the first NGOs in Saudi, SHS was dormant for the past few years, he said. Under his leadership, SHS now has two, five and 10-year goals across various tenets. 

SHS will be introducing TNR [Trap-Neuter-Release] programs, as some Saudi cities have issues with strays. 

“This issue wasn’t dealt with humanely in the past, and the important thing is that moving forward we work toward preventing these incidents from happening again. 

The Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs, HE Eng. Abdullatif bin Abdulmalik Al-Sheikh, banned animal poisoning; a noteworthy first step in the right direction, followed by TNR.”

SHS will also work with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), on the legislation to prevent the import of exotic animals, as well as with other organizations to deal with exotic animals in Saudi and returning them to the wild.

“We’ll be collaborating with the government on recommendations on how to best operate the sanctuaries, introduce animals back into the wild, and also educate the public on the importance and absolute necessity of biodiversity,” he said.

SHS also led a campaign recruiting young volunteers in different regions of the Kingdom to participate in rescuing animals. Prince Khaled is a firm believer in the youth’s effect on the advancement of society.

“Activating our youth across everything we do is how we really activate Saudi, whether it is for animal welfare or for our work with health and wellness. There has been a slew of volunteers coming to donate their time, effort and their emotion to these animals. We are so blessed to have a relationship with these people, they’re passionate and they really care. They will work on a TNR program in Madina, starting from the university in Taibah where they’ll trap, neuter then relocate the animals in other areas.”



A program that traps stray cats, spays or neuters them, and then returns them to where they were found or, if the place isn’t secure, relocates them to a better home.