Saudi health campaigners think pink for breast cancer awareness month

Known to be the most common cancer in women worldwide, it is the leading cause of death among Saudi women, according to a retrospective epidemiological study conducted in 2012. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 01 October 2020
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Saudi health campaigners think pink for breast cancer awareness month

  • Regular checks are a must to detect and fight the disease in its early stages

JEDDAH: Breast cancer, once a taboo subject in many Saudi social settings, is now openly talked about thanks to years of awareness campaigns led by an organization bearing the name of a victim of the disease, Zahra.

As Breast Cancer Awareness month gets underway, campaigners in the Kingdom will be urging people to think pink, the internationally recognized symbol of October and a color adopted by the Zahra Breast Cancer Association in Saudi Arabia.

The association was one of the first bodies in the country dedicated to raising awareness about the disease and providing support to patients and survivors. And its mission is far from over, with more outreach programs and initiatives in the pipeline.

While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to follow the vital steps toward detecting the disease in its early stages, but the association is leading the fight to highlight the need for regular checks.

Known to be the most common cancer in women worldwide, it is the leading cause of death among Saudi women, according to a retrospective epidemiological study conducted in 2012.

The findings showed high-incidence rates occurring at an earlier age in Saudi women than in those in Western countries.

More than 25 years ago, Dr. Suad bin Amer, the head of breast cancer research at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, struggled to understand the disease which her mother, Zahra bint Ali bin Harfash, suffered from.

In order to comprehend her mom’s grave situation and treatment, that went on for several years, Amer went on a hunt for information and was able to answer the questions of her ailing mother, who succumbed to the disease years later.

Since early 2003, awareness workshops and seminars have been conducted in a number of institutions in Riyadh, and awareness campaigns run in shopping centers were later expanded throughout the Kingdom.

With a mission to provide a clearer understanding of the disease, support patients, and help them to live a pro-active life after recovery, Amer co-founded the Zahra Breast Cancer Association in 2007, named after her late mother.

In carrying out her awareness work, she took to heart the words of her mother who said: “Women must be made aware of this disease, must seek knowledge and information about it by themselves, and should undergo screening.”

With this message in mind Amer began her journey of spreading awareness in the Kingdom about the importance of early detection with a team of dedicated co-founders and members.

CEO and co-founder, Hanadi Al-Outhah, told Arab News that breast cancer awareness month would go ahead despite the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, using digital means to reach out to as many people as possible, even beyond Saudi  borders.

“This year, we’re focusing on the four main pillars of thought, priorities, behavior, and gratitude toward health and how the events of the year were able to change the mindset of patients and survivors. We’re focusing on their growth and providing them with the support they need after recovery,” she said.

Al-Outhah added that the organization would be participation in the upcoming Civil20 (C20) event at which the importance of supporting cancer survivors, post-treatment, would be discussed.

“It’s an area that we are falling behind on in the Kingdom and regionally. It’s never been discussed before and the aim is to target the G20 countries and encourage them to support them after their treatment, while activating their roles as survivors after. The result would be more impactful as many NGOs are founded by survivors themselves,” she said.

Hala Aseel, a co-founder of the association and a mental-health counselor, said: “I, like everyone at the time, was oblivious to what breast cancer was but understood it with time as I am a daughter of a cancer survivor.

“I believed in the goal of Zahra because people needed to change their view of the disease with survivors who can live to tell the tale. With enough support they can, and they’ll find a wider support group that also includes survivors to help.”

Another co-founder and clinical psychologist, Haifa Al-Shamsi, said: “We went from knocking on people’s doors to people knocking on ours. With the help of the Ministry of Health, this was achieved. With the help of Zahra, we aim at empowering women, survivors, to go out and advocate about the screening process and talk about their journeys.

“With support, we’ll be able to do more to help and ensure that patients and survivors receive proper moral and psychological support that will ensure their continued journey in life.”

Public acceptance and acknowledgement of the importance of screening has encouraged many and helped in generating a better understanding of the risk factors relevant to patients.

“One of the main goals now is to fill in a gap and calculate the impact measurement, to ensure that there are enough people to continue providing psychological and social support by training specialists in the Kingdom, support research projects and empower members of the medical field, and provide them with the needed education,” said Al-Shamsi.

Zahra’s plans for the future include establishing a constant presence at specialist hospitals with cancer treatment centers and recruit community figures to help bring a local flavor to initiatives.

Al-Outhah noted that support would continue to be needed from all levels.

Breast cancer survivor, Awatif Al-Hoshan, who is a member of the board and a Zahra ambassador, said women were often confused and found it daunting to inquire about the disease, sometimes fearing the worst.

“When cancer patients and survivors see other women come forward, it brings a sense of ease and comfort. Zahra ambassadors follow a simple and important therapeutic path, to lend a helping hand,” she said.

“It’s a scientific fact that early detection saves lives and we’ve come a long way as we’ve cooperated with many health organizations to try and complete the circle, health-wise, mentally, and physically.

“The support I had while getting treatment wasn’t what I needed. I understood that and learnt from the experience. I am now a proud Zahra ambassador helping out patients and creating a community of caregivers with hopes to expand and have more people join,” Al-Hoshan added.

The association’s mission is far from complete, but its outreach has expanded throughout the Kingdom, and participation in this year’s C20 will provide a platform for its message to be heard around the world.

“Working with various entities throughout the years has helped to spread awareness at unprecedented levels. But support is everything,” said Al-Outhah.


Mermaids make waves in the Red Sea

Updated 22 July 2024
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Mermaids make waves in the Red Sea

  • First-of-its-kind diving course in Jeddah offers aquatic adventures for summer

JEDDAH: Inspired by mythical sea-dwelling creatures, a diving center in Jeddah is offering a first-of-its-kind mermaid diving course for those wanting to splash around in cool waters during the summer.

Scuba Schools International at Al-Haddad Scuba in the coastal city offers a whimsical yet invigorating experience for those in search of an aquatic adventure.

All over the world, mermaids represent beauty, danger, transformation, duality, and feminine power. Today they continue to inspire literature, film, fashion, and even marine conservation efforts.

Ali Ayoub, Al-Haddad Scuba, certified mermaid diver

Arab News spoke to Corinna Davids, an Austrian scuba diving and swimming instructor known for her groundbreaking approach to mermaid diving. She developed the SSI Mermaid Program after years of expertise in free diving and swimming.

Davids became an instructor in swimming and scuba diving at SSI when she was 18 and has since revolutionized the diving industry, making waves with her innovative techniques and passion for the sea.

HIGHLIGHTS

• In April, Corinna Davids held the first mermaid diving course for instructors in Saudi Arabia.

• The course comprises extensive theory sessions, in-water training, and evaluations of teaching abilities.

Mermaid diving, she explained, is an art form that combines the technique of dolphin kick used in swimming with an exaggerated, aesthetically pleasing movement. This unique style not only looks beautiful but also ensures efficiency and safety.

“By mastering various fun skills and tricks, SSI mermaids can perform beautifully while maintaining safety protocols,” she told Arab News.

Saudi model Wafaa Al-Masry said the mermaid diving course was ‘a fun and unique experience.’ (Supplied)

Davids says that to become a mermaid one needs only basic water confidence. “The program is easily accessible, and to become a mermaid instructor, one needs to complete additional steps after becoming a mermaid,” she added.

The mermaid diving experience is incomplete without the mermaid costume. Davids recommends using high-quality monofins, such as the Mahina Monofin, which provides efficiency and aesthetic appeal. The tail skin, made from Lycra or scuba fabric, completes the look and will give mermaids the confidence to shine.

In April, Davids held the first mermaid diving course for instructors in Saudi Arabia, focusing on safety, technique and teaching methods to ensure that trainees are able to teach mermaid diving to students of all levels. The course comprises extensive theory sessions, in-water training, and evaluations of teaching abilities.

Initiatives such as the Vision 2030 plan aim to diversify the economy and promote tourism, which includes the development of new recreational activities like mermaid diving.

Ali Ayoub, Al-Haddad Scuba, certified mermaid diver

“The course received an overwhelmingly positive response from the trainees, who showed significant improvement throughout the program,” she said.

The newly certified instructors will be able to teach the mermaid diving program throughout Saudi Arabia.

“The primary aim of conducting this course in Saudi Arabia was to introduce a new, fun program that would appeal to kids and adults alike. Mermaid diving offers an exciting experience for those who may be hesitant to try scuba diving or freediving,” Davids said.

Corinna Davids, a respected scuba diving and swimming instructor known for her groundbreaking approach to mermaid diving. (Instagram/corinna.flowrebels)

Four participants from diverse backgrounds took part in the course, including a swimming instructor and lifeguard, two scuba instructors (one of whom is a doctor), and a free-diving instructor who is also an air traffic controller.

Ali Ayoub, a certified mermaid diver and scuba instructor from Al-Haddad Scuba, told Arab News: “Saudi Arabia has been undergoing considerable social and cultural transformations, with more emphasis on leisure and recreational activities.

“Initiatives such as the Vision 2030 plan aim to diversify the economy and promote tourism, which includes the development of new recreational activities like mermaid diving.”

Ayoub added that mermaid diving requires strong swimming abilities and good physical fitness. “Practice swimming regularly, work on your breath-holding techniques, and consider taking free-diving courses to improve your underwater endurance,” he advised.

He added that mermaid divers can participate in educational programs for schools, community groups, and public events: “They can share information about marine ecosystems, the threats they face, and how individuals can help. Their captivating presence can make learning about these issues more engaging and memorable.”

Wafaa Al-Masry, 22, a Saudi model, took the mermaid diving course under the supervision of coach Ayoub. She told Arab News: “It was a fun and unique experience. Initially, I thought it would be difficult, but with the training and the coach’s guidance, I found it easy and enjoyable.”

She said that breathing techniques, relaxation, and mastering the fin method were new skills she managed differently throughout the mermaid course. “The trainer was excellent in providing instruction, making the experience fun, and delivering valuable information,” she added.

Davids has written a comprehensive guide for those interested in discovering the magic of mermaid diving in Saudi Arabia. The guide provides all the necessary information for new mermaids to stay safe, make informed decisions, and choose the right equipment.

Having trained more than 3,000 divers in the past five years, Al-Haddad Scuba specializes in unique activities such as snorkeling, deep diving and night diving, providing immersive experiences of the vibrant underwater world alongside a community of fellow ocean enthusiasts.

 

 


Saudi farmer turns worm waste into wealth in innovative move

Updated 22 July 2024
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Saudi farmer turns worm waste into wealth in innovative move

  • Vermicomposting operation is an example of agricultural ingenuity

RIYADH: A Saudi farmer has developed a technique that transforms a common garden nuisance into a useful resource.

Mohammed Al-Shaer, of Al-Dhafir village in Baha, has established a thriving vermicomposting operation on his farm, producing high-quality organic fertilizer from earthworms, according to a report by the Saudi Press Agency.

Al-Shaer’s venture began approximately a year ago with a simple setup: a single 5-meter-long, 60 cm-high tank housing roughly 2,000 worms. The worms were fed a diet of dry leaves, organic waste, and food scraps and were closely monitored for four months, yielding over 300 kg of nutrient-rich compost and a tenfold increase in their population.

Baha farmer Mohammed Al-Shaer’s worm compost accelerates plant growth, enhances fruit production, and improves overall soil health. (SPA)

“Through extensive field trials and research into global best practices, I have gained insights into worm behavior, needs, and breeding techniques,” Al-Shaer explained in an interview with the SPA. His operation has since expanded to four tanks, producing enough vermicompost to fertilize roughly 250 trees on his property.

The benefits of this organic fertilizer are manifold. It accelerates plant growth, enhances fruit production, and improves overall soil health.

FASTFACT

Mohammed Al-Shaer’s venture began approximately a year ago with a simple setup: a single 5-meter-long, 60 cm-high tank housing roughly 2,000 worms.

Al-Shaer added: “The worms naturally enhance soil quality, optimize nutrient cycling for crops, and develop sound agricultural practices to enhance the production of fruits and vegetables.”

Looking ahead, the farmer aims to scale up his project to develop it into a comprehensive operation that produces large quantities of worm compost.

He also intends to raise awareness about this ecofriendly practice among fellow farmers through agricultural festivals in Saudi Arabia, encouraging his contemporaries to use organic fertilizer as an alternative to chemical fertilizers, which can harm soil, plants, and human health.

Local officials, notably Fahd Al-Zahrani, director general of the branch of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture in Baha, have expressed support for the proposal.

Dr. Lubna Saad, an associate professor of applied nutrition at Al-Baha University, emphasized the scientific benefits of vermicomposting, describing it as a potent mixture of worm castings and processed organic matter.

“These worms consume most of the organic inputs, transforming them into vermicompost,” Saad said in an interview with the SPA.

“The resulting material is then sifted and filtered, producing a ready-to-use fertilizer suitable for all types of agricultural fields. It significantly enhances the soil’s ability to absorb and retain water.”

Farmers participating in the recent Khayrat Al-Baha Festival praised Al-Shaer’s initiative, noting improvements in their crop quality after using organic fertilizer, the SPA reported.

 

 


Al-Baha Honey Festival to begin Tuesday

The festival will continue for 14 days until Aug. 5. (SPA)
Updated 22 July 2024
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Al-Baha Honey Festival to begin Tuesday

  • Al-Zahrani added that all types of honey exhibited are tested carefully to ensure quality

AL-BAHA: Under the patronage of Al-Baha Gov. Prince Hussam bin Saud bin Abdulaziz, the 16th International Honey Festival kicks off on Tuesday, July 23, organized by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture and held at the Cooperative Association of Beekeepers headquarters in Baljurashi Governorate.

Fahd Al-Zahrani, director general of the ministry’s Al-Baha branch, said the festival will continue for 14 days until Aug. 5.

The festival will continue for 14 days until Aug. 5. (SPA)

He said the festival will witness the participation of 90 beekeepers from seven countries to showcase their products.

Al-Zahrani added that all types of honey exhibited are tested carefully to ensure quality.

The festival will continue for 14 days until Aug. 5. (SPA)

Nine governmental, civil, and voluntary entities are also participating in the festival, which is one of the most important agricultural festivals in the Kingdom, attracting exhibitors and experts from around the world every year.

 


Financial district in Riyadh earns SmartScore Neighborhood certification

View shows the King Abdullah Financial District, north of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 22 July 2024
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Financial district in Riyadh earns SmartScore Neighborhood certification

  • With this certification, the financial district becomes the first development in the Middle East and Africa to receive WiredScore’s SmartScore Neighborhood certification

RIYADH: The King Abdullah Financial District obtained the SmartScore Neighborhood certification by WiredScore, the world’s leading authority on smart building technologies, for its excellence in advanced digital infrastructure that provides a robust network, sustainability and seamlessness at the level of living, work and leisure.

With this certification, the financial district becomes the first development in the Middle East and Africa to receive WiredScore’s SmartScore Neighborhood certification.

The recognition comes after a rigorous evaluation and certification process that started in Sept. 2023, when WiredScore announced at a Cityscape Global event in Riyadh that KAFD met the pre-certification criteria for the SmartScore Neighborhood certification.

 


Saudi defense minister meets with French ambassador to Kingdom in Riyadh

Updated 22 July 2024
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Saudi defense minister meets with French ambassador to Kingdom in Riyadh

  • Reviewed relations between KSA and France and discussed number of issues and topics of common interest

RIYADH: Saudi defense minister Prince Khalid bin Salman met with the French ambassador to the Kingdom, Ludovic Pouille, in Riyadh on Monday.

During the meeting, they reviewed relations between Saudi Arabia and France and discussed a number of issues and topics of common interest, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The meeting was also attended by Prince Abdulrahman bin Mohammed bin Ayyaf, the deputy minister of defense and the Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Fayyad bin Hamed Al-Ruwaili.

The assistant minister of defense for executive affairs, Khalid bin Hussein Al-Bayari, and the director general of the office of the minister of defense, Hisham bin Abdulaziz bin Saif, were also in attendance.

On the French side, it was attended by the military attache to the Kingdom Jean-Christophe Guerdet and the ambassador’s adviser Wassim Zammat.