KSRelief gives aid efforts new impetus in Ramadan

KSRelief distributes food regularly among Syrian refugees in Lebanon and elswhere. (SPA)
Updated 15 May 2019
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KSRelief gives aid efforts new impetus in Ramadan

  • Yemeni health minister praises center’s humanitarian work

ADEN, MOGADISHU, RIYADH: With the advent of Ramadan, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) has increased its efforts to provide relief to the needy across the Muslim world by widening the scope of its food distribution program.

In addition to food programs, the center has initiated a number of humanitarian projects in various countries, particularly in war-ravaged Yemen. 

Earlier this week, the center dispatched seven truckloads of dialysis equipment to the Yemeni Ministry of Health for distribution to a number of dialysis centers across the country.

KSRelief also distributed 240 food baskets to families of autistic people in Yemen’s Aden province, part of a wider distribution program of 10,000 food baskets across the region to people suffering from an array of health issues.

As many as 2,501,897 Yemenis benefited from medical services provided by the center in 2018, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Last year, kidney centers in Hadramout received some 56 tons of medical supplies from KSRelief.

Yemeni Health Minister Nasser Ba’aom commended the Kingdom’s efforts through the center to support the health sector in the Arab nation.

On Tuesday, KSRelief distributed Ramadan food baskets in different parts of Somali capital Mogadishu for the eighth consecutive day.

The center also distributed food baskets in Albania and among Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. 

In a recent meeting with KSRelief Supervisor General Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah at his office in Riyadh, the regional representative of the UNHCR to the Gulf Cooperation Council for the Arab States, Khalid Khalifa, praised the center’s active cooperation with his organization to improve the condition of refugees in various countries.

They also reviewed the Kingdom’s efforts to provide relief to the people of Yemen, Syria and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.


Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet approves new tobacco license regulation

Updated 36 min 17 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet approves new tobacco license regulation

  • Annual license will cost more than $26,000
  • New measure could lead to more vaping, says expert

JEDDAH: Cafes and restaurants in Saudi Arabia will have to pay up to SR100,000 ($26,675) a year to sell tobacco products inside and outside their premises, after the Cabinet approved a new licensing regulation.

Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries to ratify the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2005, an ambitious plan to reduce smoking rates from 12.7 percent to 5 percent by 2030.

The Health Ministry has taken steps to curb smoking through awareness campaigns and cessation clinics. Taxes on cigarettes doubled in 2017, leading to a 213 percent increase in smokers seeking help to kick the habit in the months that followed.

Saudi restaurant owner Hassan Moriah supported the Cabinet decision, although he said customers would be hit the hardest.

“Every restaurant and café manager should be licensed to provide this service. I believe all restaurants and cafés will support this decision too, but I believe the only people who will be affected by this decision are the customers,” he told Arab News. “All outlets will raise the price of hookahs. The actual people who would be paying for it to reach SR100,000 are the customers and not the cafés. Yes, there will be people who cannot afford to pay the new prices and they may have to cut down on their hookah consumption.”

The new regulation would also affect places that were not so popular, he added.

Associate professor of history at Middle Tennessee State University Dr. Sean Foley, who is writing a book on smoking in Saudi Arabia and the wider Muslim world, said the new law was part of the Kingdom’s attempts to address a serious health crisis while also meeting a goal of the Vision 2030 reform plan to move away from non-oil revenues.

“While raising cigarette taxes is a proven strategy for reducing smoking, the new SR100,000 annual fee for Saudi restaurants to permit patrons to smoke may be even more important,” he told Arab News. “Many restaurants may not be able to afford to pay for such an expensive permit, so there is likely to be less smoking in restaurants. That would mean there will be fewer people exposed to second-hand smoke in restaurants, itself a serious problem, and existing smokers would have a powerful new incentive to quit. Studies have consistently shown that creating smoke-free areas is one of the most powerful tools to motivate and help existing tobacco users to quit while preventing new smokers from picking up the habit.”

"The academic, who has written "Changing Saudi Arabia: Art, Culture, and Society in the Kingdom" published this year, said the Kingdom had some of the highest smoking rates in the world.

He added that the problem was getting worse as the number of smokers in Saudi Arabia was expected to rise from six million to 10 million in the coming years.

He warned that while there was the danger of a rise in smuggling and other black-market activities — because of the higher costs associated with smoking — there were other challenges too.

“The real danger is not the rise in black-market activity but that Saudis will continue to switch in large numbers to a product that is currently legal to use — vaping. While purchasing any of the products associated with vaping is illegal in the Kingdom, it is legal to vape in public and many Saudis buy vape juice and vape modules online.”