Hajj Continued Despite COVID-19Mecca, the epicenter and fifth pillar of Islam, has hosted around 2 million Muslims in recent years. However, due to COVID-19, they had to downsize it in 2020. With 1.8 billion Muslims globally, Hajj is compulsory at least once in a lifetime. This year, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia limited the annual pilgrimage to Muslim residents residing within the country. An estimated 1,000 Muslims attended in an unprecedented attempt to mitigate crowds and spread of the virus. The allotted amount of pilgrims grew to ensure Hajj continued despite COVID-19.

Umrah Suspended

Umrah is a voluntary pilgrimage that Muslims can take at any point and often lasts only two hours. Millions perform it annually due to its short duration and low cost. It is different from the Hajj, which is longer and compulsory for all Muslims but often limited by physical ability and finances.

In March, Saudi Arabia reported its first confirmed coronavirus infection in the kingdom. A man who traveled to Iran, which at the time was the viral epicenter in the region, returned to Saudi Arabia and was quarantined immediately after diagnosis. The kingdom responded to the increasing rate of infection by suspending Umrah until further notice. As of August, COVID-19 has delayed visits to the holy sites of Medina and Mecca for Umrah regardless of residency, visa or nationality. Furthermore, travelers who possess an Umrah visa will not be allowed entry into Saudi Arabia.

The Hajj Continued Despite COVID-19

As of August 14, Saudi Arabia has had nearly 296,000 COVID-19 cases with an excess of 3,338 victims. As a result, Hajj, the main event of the Islamic faith, will see a dramatic downturn in 2020 — the first in decades. Saudi Arabia has 29 million residents, yet only 1,000 Muslims were initially allowed to attend this year’s pilgrimage due to the pandemic.

Muhammad Saleh bin Taher Benten, Minister of Hajj and Umrah, stated that the 2020 pilgrimage will be exceptional due to the pandemic. However, he assured that the area would implement strict precautionary measures to ensure that pilgrims remained healthy during Hajj. The country also went through an intense selection process with a period of quarantine required upon entering the holy cities. The quarantine was mandatory upon entry and exit. The Hajj continued despite COVID-19, but officials wanted to make it as safe as possible.

The Turnout

The annual pilgrimage officially ended on Sunday, August 2, with a larger turnout than expected. Therefore, Hajj continued despite COVID-19. Authorities allowed 10,000 pilgrims to enforce social distancing among local Saudis and foreigners that attended. Authorities ensured safety by requiring pilgrims to don a face mask and an electronic wristband to track their movements. Following the pilgrimage, health officials administered coronavirus tests, and they required all attendees to quarantine. Additionally, Saudi authorities ordered thorough sanitation of the site to reduce any risk of contagion.

– Michael Santiago
Photo: Needpix

Healthcare in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Middle East, with more than 34 million people, and it is a country highly dependent on oil for income. The Ministry of Health (MOH) operates, controls and manages public health in Saudi Arabia. Here is some information about the challenges and efforts to privatize healthcare in Saudi Arabia.

Challenges in Healthcare in Saudi Arabia

The MOH is responsible for prevention and primary care and sponsors over 3,300 health centers in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia established the department nearly 100 years ago to provide free health services to its citizens. However, the MOH could not meet the population’s healthcare needs, which stimulated and motivated changes in the country’s healthcare systems.

Media reports claimed that the public health system in Saudi Arabia presented deficiencies in maintaining standards. Public health services were more difficult to maintain as public health spending rose due to the aging Saudi Arabian population and higher chronic disease rates.

The government’s challenge in sustaining proper public health services is primarily due to the reduced revenues from oil. But the government was keen on reforming the health sector to fulfill social demands in the country, which ultimately led to the privatization of public health systems. Privatization happens when a publicly-owned business or industry transfers to private ownership and control. In healthcare, privatization involves non-governmental individuals becoming engaged in financing and managing healthcare.

 A study in Taif found that only 59% of patients who sought treatment at public healthcare facilities were satisfied in comparison to 77% satisfaction in the private sector.

The New Saudi Health System (NSHS)

The New Saudi Health System (NSHS) allowed local and foreign insurance companies to deal with expatriates and citizens in the private healthcare sector. Additionally, new legislation allowed private healthcare providers to enter the healthcare market.  Private healthcare continued to grow after the government introduced interest-free loans to encourage the construction of private facilities. Foreign investment supported the transition, which reached $3.5 billion in 2018.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a loan for a small business that needs help paying its workers. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank believe PPPs would improve health care services, and the Saudi Arabian government has drawn up a PPP law that aims to boost private healthcare.

Efforts to Privatize

 Privatization intends to serve the needs of the rising population. Saudi Arabia will need 5,000 more beds by 2020 and 20,000 more beds by 2035, so the country hopes to privatize 295 hospitals and 2,259 healthcare facilities by 2030. With these changes, experts expect to see life expectancy increase to 78.4 for males and 81.3 for females by 2050. Leaders hope that privatization will reduce government healthcare spending and ultimately produce new funding for the MOH.

Privatization increases the motivation to provide efficient healthcare. Leaders in Saudi Arabia constructed Vision 2030, which is a framework and collection of long-term goals and expectations “to create a vibrant society in which all citizens can fulfill their dreams.” A key factor in the Vision 2030 blueprint is the privatization of healthcare in Saudi Arabia as it aims to improve the lives of those living in the country.

– Rachel Durling
Photo: Flickr

SDG Goal 5 in Saudi Arabia
The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), declared in 2015, are a list of 17 goals of economic and social development upon which each nation has received the call to improve. SDG Goal 5 requires each member state to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. This article contains some updates on SDG Goal 5 in Saudi Arabia.

Despite a longtime refusal to challenge embedded cultural hostility towards women, the government of Saudi Arabia has made some modest changes that have lifted some of the restrictions that have historically been placed upon Saudi women. Examples include the 2011 decree allowing Saudi women to vote and the 2018 decision to allow Saudi women to drive.

As per the SDGs, Saudi Arabia must work toward developing a more equitable society for women by the year 2030. The following are updates on SDG Goal 5 in Saudi Arabia.

Women’s Representation in National Politics

One indicator of SDG Goal 5 is women’s representation in the national parliament of a country. Given that Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, it does not have a national parliament. The consultative Shura Council is the closest approximation to a parliament and is responsible for submitting legislative recommendations to the King.

In 2013, Saudi King Abdullah appointed 30 women to the 150-member council for the first time. However, as of 2017, female representation on the Shura Council has remained at 20% and the Saudi King is the one one who can increase it.

Recent Decrees Have Weakened the Male Guardianship System

Another indicator of SDG Goal 5 is the promulgation of legal frameworks that promote equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex. Any updates on SDG Goal 5 in Saudi Arabia would be incomplete without an assessment of the status of the male guardianship system. By law, Saudi women must be under the authority of a male relative or spouse. Until recently, Saudi women could not apply for a passport or leave the country without their male guardian’s approval. Neither could they register marriages, divorces or their children’s births.

However, in 2019, a series of decrees announced by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman weakened the authority of the male guardianship system.

Today, Saudi women can obtain a passport and travel outside the country without male permission. Moreover, women can now register marriages, divorces and their children’s births. Additionally, employment opportunities for women have also expanded, with law guaranteeing a woman’s right to work.

The male guardianship system does not allow for equality and non-discrimination of women under the law. Despite these recent reforms, the law still upholds certain powers of the male guardianship system. For example, women still need the permission of a male guardian to marry and live independently, and only men can pass on citizenship to their children.

Child Marriage in Saudi Arabia

Child marriage has been a historic issue in Saudi Arabia. However, in January 2019, the government of Saudi Arabia implemented new marriage regulations for children preventing girls and boys as young as 15 from marrying without the consent of a court of law. Although the U.N. does not have publicly available data on the child marriage rate in Saudi Arabia, the fact that child marriage is legal opens the possibility for a high proportion of marriage of girls under age 18.

These updates on SDG Goal 5 in Saudi Arabia demonstrate that although a series of recent reforms have eased the burden on Saudi women and girls, the government of Saudi Arabia continues to uphold certain legal institutions of gender discrimination. Low representation in the Shura Council, an intact male guardianship system and regulations enabling child marriage serve as examples of the challenges that Saudi women still face in 2020.

– John Andrikos
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia has seen tremendous strides in women’s rights throughout the past decade. There are a few notable areas of progress toward women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. However, the incarceration of female activists points to the lack of progression in women’s rights.

Progress of Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia

  1. Having ID Cards: To many, the era of female progress in Saudi Arabia began in 2013 when the government began requiring women to have their own ID cards. Previously, many women had simply been listed as a dependant on their father or husband’s card. Thus, it required a male figure to prove their identity during many transactions. While this practice largely continued, women welcomed their IDs as a symbol of independence.
  2. Freedom to Choose Attire: The following years also saw a loosening of decades-old modesty requirements for Saudi women. In 2017, the government prohibited the country’s religious police, the principal enforcers of modesty rules, from arresting or detaining the public. In 2018, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reinforced this progressive sentiment, telling CBS, “The laws are very clear and stipulated in the laws of Sharia: that women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men. This, however, does not particularly specify a [traditionally required] black abaya or a black headcover.” The Crown Prince also talks about letting women decide what they choose to wear.
  3. The Right to Drive: Saudi female autonomy saw another great victory in 2018 when the nation lifted its infamous ban on female driving. This landmark decision was part of the Crown Prince’s plan to revitalize the Saudi economy. He hopes to bring more women into the workforce. According to the United Nations Development Programme 2018 Human Development Reports, 23.4% of Saudi women ages 15 and older participated in the labor force that year. This is a figure Salman hopes to increase significantly by 2030.
  4. Lift Permission From Male Guardian: In 2019, many once again heralded the Crown Prince for his reform. Under a new law, women in Saudi Arabia no longer needed permission from a male guardian to travel. They could also apply for passports, and register and receive official documents for a marriage, birth or divorce.

Challenges of Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia

Many have hailed the Saudi government for these progressive developments. In addition, the Crown Prince has earned a reputation as a progressive creating a new Saudi Arabia. However, amid years of loosening restrictions, outspoken Saudi women have continued to face persecution. Most famously, women’s rights activists Loujain Al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan, Aisha al-Mana, Aziza al-Yousef and Madeha al-Ajroush were arrested in 2018. The activists are allegedly sexually abused and tortured for their activism and open criticism of Saudi Arabia. As of August 2020, they continue to await trial in a Saudi prison.

Women’s rights in Saudi Arabia thus continue to reflect the country’s conflicting traditional and progressive values. Some view the Crown Prince’s reform as a mere distraction from an overarching culture that views women as property. As Lina al-Hathloul, the sister of the incarcerated activist Loujain Al-Hathloul, told TIME in May, Saudi Arabians are struggling to define what falls in line with these values. “Now we don’t have the religious police and we have concerts,” she said. Lina al-Hathloul mentioned that under the new public decency law, the police can arrest and imprison women for dancing at a concert.

According to the Crown Prince’s ambitious Vision 2030 plan, progress and reform in Saudi Arabia have just begun. Imprisoned activists and blurred boundaries ensure that even with the rights granted in recent years, Saudi women will enter this decade of advancement with caution.

Stella Pagkas
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s biggest oil supplies and is also home to the holy Mecca. However, Saudi Arabia also has one of the most oppressive regimes, comparatively speaking. Women’s rights in Saudia Arabia are close to being non-existent. Although women in Saudia Arabia have been granted certain basic rights, there is a long way to go. Here is a history of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.

Early History

Saudi Arabia is a predominately Islamic nation and the law system follows Sharia law. Ever since the Iranian Revolution, laws against women in Saudi Arabia have been stricter. In the early 50’s, Saudi Arabia finally opened a school that focused exclusively on girls. Then, 20 years later, women in Saudi Arabia could attend college as well.

It would not be until three decades later that women would see more changes in Saudi laws. When women received personal licenses, their ownership of such licenses was not as it is in European or American nations, for example. Women’s guardians received the identification cards on behalf of the woman. In the following years, Sharia law and government played a key role in the development of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. These structures forced women into marriage, domestic abuse was a wide-spread issue and basic human rights eroded, year after year. Women started to see a change in the 2000s and 2010s with the enrollment of females elected into the government. Furthermore, women could vote in 2015 and the driving ban ceased in 2018.

Women’s Rights Since 2018

Women in Saudi Arabia do not have certain freedoms that may seem trivial to most women around the world. In 2019, it became legal to allow women to obtain passports or to travel without the permission of a male guardian. Though these reforms do not completely solve the oppression women face, they are a step in the right direction. These reforms allow a sense of freedom to women.

Saudi Arabia is gradually moving closer to removing its “guardianship system” that subjects women’s rights to their male relatives. A new regulation includes the right for a women’s hiring without the need for a male guardian’s permission. Notably, the law is intended to target and ban employment discrimination laws.

One of the biggest changes for women in Saudi Arabia is allowing women to be able to register their children’s births. Previously, a male guardian or the father of the child did this act. Human rights changes such as these in Sharia law allow for women to be looked at as equal and as “heads of the household”.

Celebrating the Victories But Eyeing the Future

These regulations are a positive step towards empowering women and providing them with more opportunities for leadership roles. Much progress remains, in terms of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia as the women lack many pivotal rights and liberties afforded to men. However, progress deserves celebration and these new regulations have given women freedoms they previously did not enjoy.

– Hena Pejdah
Photo: UN Multimedia

Farming in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia, a desert country that saw its fortunes skyrocket due to the discovery of oil, uses its billions of dollars of oil profits to power many parts of its economy and its citizen’s lives. One of these facets is its food supply — the Kingdom imports more than 80% of its necessary food supply with its oil money. Only about 1.5% of the land area of Saudi Arabia is arable, and what agriculture the country does have ends up taking over 80% of the Kingdom’s precious water supply. While the country is currently food-secure, farming in Saudi Arabia has been a crucial area of interest for those who wish to expand Saudi sustainability and shore up potential risks in global food supply network crashes.

Farming Policy

Saudi Arabia originally attempted agricultural self-sufficiency with aggressive government subsidies for farmers in the 1980s due to volatile food imports. Poor techniques and mismanagement of water resources forced the reimagining of these efforts in 2007. Now, the Kingdom subsidizes the use of manufactured feed for livestock farmers and encourages vegetable growth using greenhouses and drip irrigation methods. These techniques conserve water while ensuring a more sustainable food supply.

The Saudi government has made concerted efforts to improve its agricultural sector as part of its Vision 2030 program. A top priority for the Kingdom is increasing efficiency in its use of limited natural resources while developing rural areas. Farming is an important source of employment in the Kingdom, so supporting agribusiness in Saudi Arabia not only improves food security but the overall lives of many. Farmers are often some of the poorest individuals in the world, so providing aid and focusing on agricultural efficiency simultaneously fights Saudi hunger and poverty.

New Developments

The Kingdom is still a major importer of cereals, meat, dairy products and fruits and vegetables, but there has been a growing emphasis on farming in Saudi Arabia as demand for food continues to rise. Following the failed attempts in the 1980s, Saudis have used technology to help make their agricultural industry as efficient as possible. New strategies include the use of satellites to obtain pictures of farmland. The intention of the resulting thermal images is to better understand the relationship between crop growth and overall water use. This helps farmers compare water requirements for different crops and estimate which crop has the highest yield given a certain amount of water.

Another newer form of technology recently came into play in the United Arab Emirates, which shares a border and climate with Saudi Arabia. There, a Norwegian scientist introduced her patented Liquid Nanoclay (LNC) to Emirati desert farms. LNC is a treatment that gives sand a clay coating by mixing nanoparticles of clay with water and binding them with sand particles. Since sand particles are loose, they cannot trap water efficiently, but this treatment allows them to do so. Without using any chemicals, LNC saved water consumption by over 50% in its trial run in the Emirati farms. While it is still quite expensive, international technology like this provides hope for farming in Saudi Arabia, as well as other regions that are water-scarce and relatively reliant on food imports.

Current Trends

High seafood consumption levels have driven the Kingdom to transform and expand its aquaculture industry, or the farming of aquatic species in some body of water like a tank, cage or pond. Aquaculture also saw its start in the 1980s, but today it is the fastest-growing animal food cultivation industry in Saudi Arabia. Government support is a large driver of this — to enhance food security, the government allocated $35 billion toward Vision 2030 projects that include aquaculture funding. Examples of these projects include establishing a seafood processing plant for high-end fish and marine fin-fish cages in the Red Sea in addition to several other initiatives focused on land farming.

Better-informed practices and technological advancement of farming in Saudi Arabia have helped in creating a more sustainable domestic food supply in the Kingdom. Learning from its mistakes in the 1980s, the Saudi government has targeted its subsidies and projects toward more efficient crops and projects, like fish farming. Additionally, it has pivoted away from crops and growth methods having to do with wastewater. Technology like satellite use aides in current Saudi production while new, pioneering technology like Liquid Nanoclay provides hope for the future of Saudi food security and sustainability. Even though food imports still make up the majority of its supply, the Saudi government has recognized this issue and is making a concerted effort into reforming its agriculture industry. These efforts have the potential to help Saudi Arabia avoid a major food and poverty crisis in the future.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr

Crisis in YemenTucked between Saudi Arabia and the Gulf of Aden, Yemen is suffering from the world’s worst humanitarian crisis – and COVID-19 may be the final straw that wipes the Middle Eastern country off the map.

The current crisis in Yemen arises from a complex history of unrest. From 2010 to 2012, the Arab Spring ushered in a period of political rebellion throughout the Middle East. Accordingly, Yemen’s push for democracy facilitated the rocky transition of power from President Ali Abdullah Saleh to his vice president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Years of domestic hardship followed.

Islamic Houthi rebels and Saleh loyalists capitalized on Hadi’s weak state and seized control of the capital city of Sanaa in 2014. The following year, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates formed a coalition of states to invade Yemen, overpower the Houthi-Saleh rebels and reinstate Hadi’s government. More recently, coalition and Houthi alliances splintered, with Yemen as the battleground for new factions.

According to the Human Rights Watch, Saudi-led coalition attacks constitute a majority of the violence in Yemen, with approximately 12 airstrikes per day. Even so, all competing forces contribute to the bloodshed. Civilian deaths and injuries clock in at 17,500 since the conflict escalated in 2015.

Civil War, COVID-19 and Crisis: Yemen is a City on Fire

The onset of the highly infectious COVID-19 set Yemen’s conflict on fire; what remains is a full-blown crisis. Amid continued violence, 24 million Yemenis – 80% of the national population – are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. COVID-19 has worsened the already scarce supply of sanitation and clean water. Health care facilities have been dramatically reduced in capacity.

Thus far, the world has deprived 12 million Yemeni children of humanitarian aid. Innocent boys and girls are fighting for survival, some of which have yet to utter their first words. Moreover, pre-COVID-19, 2 million children faced barriers to education. Now, Yemen has 7.8 million children without schooling due to nation-wide closures.

The US Role in Yemen: Two Sides of a Different Coin

In the U.S., national headlines oscillate between COVID-19 and Donald Trump’s Twitter, with little to no mention of the ongoing crisis in Yemen. Though public awareness lacks, political action has indeed transpired on Capitol Hill.

The U.S. has funneled $721 million in humanitarian assistance to Yemen since 2017. In response to the pandemic, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo directed an additional $225 million in USAID funding to help the resource-stricken country.

Despite seemingly well-intended aid, the U.S. government’s support of coalition states tells a different story. A coalition powerhouse, Saudi Arabia’s authoritarian regime and aggressive military tactics clash against American pillars of democracy and peace. The Saudi-led coalition fly planes fueled by the U.S. military and drop bombs purchased in ongoing munition sales with the United States.

In fact, the U.N. Group of Eminent Experts suspected that the U.S., “may be complicit in war crimes in Yemen through arms sales and intelligence support given to the Saudi-led coalition.”

This year, Congress passed a bipartisan bill to scale back detrimental U.S. involvement in Yemen, ending the practice of the U.S. military refueling aircraft and using intelligence to support the coalition. Ultimately, President Trump vetoed the resolution, and Congress neglected to override Trump’s vote.

In an exclusive interview with The Borgen Project, Rep. Jared Huffman of California explained the significance of the Congressional statement: “I think that tells you that there is bipartisan support for distancing the United States from the military campaign from the Saudis in Yemen and for taking a more humanitarian approach.”

The Future of Fighting Against Crisis in Yemen

The crisis in Yemen presents as convoluted at best and depressing at worst. Fortunately, Huffman sheds light on the efforts unfolding within Congress, and there is a reason for optimism. Huffman declares, “There will be amendments and debates in the days ahead on the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, and I am sure there will be Yemen amendments as part of that. And so, we’ll keep trying. We’re months away from a national election and some changes that could make it possible for us to go even further.”

Hence, war wages on in Yemen as people battle each other and COVID-19. Yet, another battleground begins at the voting ballot; the upcoming U.S. elections could decide the role the government plays in Middle Eastern politics. In addition, those compelled to help Yemen can donate to reputable organizations, such as UNICEF  or Save The Children.

Maya Gonzales
Photo: Wikimedia

Eating Disorders' Global SpreadEating disorders are often presented as a western-world problem. Portrayals of eating disorders (EDs) to the general public suggest white, middle to upper-class females are the ones mostly affected. However, ED statistics demonstrate that all races, genders and ethnic groups are susceptible. As westernization continues, eating disorders’ global spread ignites.

Eating disorders cause approximately one death every 62 minutes. Medical professionals agree this number is likely higher because many ED cases are overlooked and not recorded as the cause of death. Out of all mental illnesses, “eating disorders have the highest mortality rate.” In developing countries where mental health resources are scarce, untreated people live dangerously exposed.

Increased Risk in Developing Countries

The long term health consequences associated with EDs are brutal. Typically, in countries where psychiatric help is unavailable, general healthcare services are lacking for those below the poverty line. Furthermore, in countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), mental illness is a serious taboo. Although sterilization is no longer a treatment for people experiencing mental health problems, there are still a lot of stigmas associated with them. They often lead to discrimination and prevent people from seeking help when needed. In these countries, psychiatric professionals able to help are nearly impossible to find.

In circumstances where someone living with an ED is not able to access medical assistance, the lack of access to treatment has persistent ramifications on a person’s body, such as experiencing pain caused by blocked intestines, muscle deterioration, cardiac pain, tooth decay or swollen jaw.

People living long-term with an ED have higher mortality rates. Living with an ED in a developing country is often a death sentence. Causes of death can include stomach ruptures, esophagus tears, kidney failure and cardiac arrest. To see reduced ED fatality rates, countries need psychiatric and medical resources. The number of countries that cannot provide these services advances the global spread of eating disorders.

Why Eating Disorders Occur in Impoverished Countries

The expansion and acceptance of Western culture are largely responsible for increasing ED cases around the world. Multiple studies evaluated the extent to which Westernization affects the elevated rate of eating disorder populations.

On the islands of Fiji, researchers conducted an observational study of EDs. The results of the study showed the impact of Western media. In the past, Fijians valued heavier body types as the image of beauty. When TV became commonly available in Fijian society during the late 1900s, ED rates were less than 1%. Three years later, a survey found 15% of teenage girls in Fiji vomited to keep their weight down.

An article published by the University of Columbia in the Journal of Eating Disorders analyzed Asia’s reaction to Westernization. The findings disprove the notion that eating disorders occur only in Western cultures. The article concludes by expanding the concept to all developing countries. These results strongly suggest that “eating disorders are not culture-bound or culture-specific, but rather culture-reactive.”

Westernization influences nearly every country in the world. Urbanization, population growth and newly introduced media further perpetuate eating disorders’ global spread. The most vulnerable countries are those that have little protection against virtually any form of addiction.

Outreach Combating Eating Disorders’ Global Spread

Eating disorder communities and organizations reach beyond their home countries. Outreach projects, such as international conferences, online training and collaboration between countries’ healthcare services, help protect people who are living with an ED and deprived of treatment. 

Originally the national charity Beat was solely based in the U.K. Now, Beat partners with international efforts in providing ED relief. The charity’s most well-known contribution is its international helpline service. Beat responded quickly to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, seeing helpline calls escalate by 30%. In response, Beat offers an online training course to recruit more volunteers.

The International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals Foundation (IAEDP Foundation) plays a role in halting eating disorders’ global spread. The IAEDP Foundation provides high-quality ED education to international multidisciplinary groups. Core courses and certifications are available in a home study format. The goal is to improve ED knowledge amongst medical professionals so people living with EDs have more opportunities for support. 

The Austrian Society on Eating Disorders (ASED) dedicates itself to establishing a network of occupational groups with ED experience. As an international network, ASED creates guidelines catered specifically to each country’s culture. ASED encourages countries to begin scientific research in ED detection, treatment and prevention. By fostering international co-operation and education, ASED hopes to expand ED resources.

Hope for the Future

Eating disorders are complex and threatening illnesses. In the Western world, health checkups and residential treatment options, in addition to emotional and nutritional therapy, encourage recovery. However, even with these resources, ED recovery can take years; if unsuccessful, EDs may result in death. For those living in highly impoverished countries, years easily turn into lifetime struggles with EDs that could end one’s life abruptly. Luckily, outreach programs enhance efforts to bring awareness and ultimately decrease ED casualty rates. Without these promising efforts, eating disorders’ global spread would continue to permeate communities around the world.

Grace Elise Van Valkenburg

Photo: U.N. 

 

Water Crisis in Saudi ArabiaWhile 97% of Saudis have access to potable water, Saudi Arabia is classified as one of the most water-scarce nations on the planet. The absolute water scarcity level is 500 cubic meters per capita, per year. Saudi Arabia has only 89.5 cubic meters per capita, per year. Despite high levels of water access in the Kingdom, severe overconsumption and lack of reliable renewable water sources have made this issue a top priority. Many view oil as the most important natural resource in Saudi Arabia. However, due to the water crisis in Saudi Arabia, water is becoming increasingly valuable.

The Current Situation and Implications

While the Middle East and North Africa region is no stranger to water scarcity, modern consumption and waste levels have raised the stakes. These issues have disproportionately affected the poor. In some areas, more than half the water used exceeds sustainable levels and 82% of wastewater is not purified for reuse. The Guardian reported that Saudi Arabian per capita water consumption levels are double the world average at 263 liters every day. These levels indicate that the Kingdom is using more than four times the water that renews on average.

The two major sources of water are rapidly disappearing groundwater and the sea. In addition, the groundwater accounts for 98% of natural freshwater. Each accounts for 50% of the water consumed in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom is the largest country to rely so heavily on desalination. However, it is extremely expensive and causes serious environmental concerns due to carbon emissions. While this issue is not immediate in that Saudis are not currently dying of thirst, it does loom over individuals who live in the region. Water is now the key to survival in the country that oil discovery transformed. Additionally, if the water crisis in Saudi Arabia is not solved, there will be severe humanitarian and geopolitical consequences for the unstable Middle East and the U.S.

Government Efforts

In 2019, Saudi Arabia launched a national program called “Qatrah,” which is Arabic for “droplet.” This program is a part of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture. It intends to slash water consumption by about 43%, to 150 liters per capita, per day by 2030. Currently, Saudi Arabia is behind only the U.S. and Canada for per capita water consumption. Hence, this water conservation program is a significant endeavor that is badly needed to improve the sustainability of water supply in the Kingdom. Qatrah is meant to encourage change in individual behavior by raising awareness of the issue. In addition, the program rationalizes water sources to best protect natural resources and all aspects of life that depend on water.

Another important aspect of Qatrah is reducing water consumption in the agricultural sector. As previously mentioned, agriculture consumes the vast majority of water in the Kingdom. Because of this, the Ministry that oversees Qatrah has plans to increase the regulation of water in this sector. The Ministry also decreases its overall consumption in order to shift more water toward the urban sector. There is a government-driven campaign to preserve and protect water is invaluable. Movements like this struggle without direction and support from the government of the country in which they operate. Thus, the aggressive plan has helped to successfully bring the water crisis in Saudi Arabia to the national stage.

NGO Efforts and Other Strategies

Suez is an international corporation dedicated to achieving sustainable management of the world’s resources. In Saudi Arabia, Suez has worked in Jeddah to improve access to drinking water. According to Suez, desalination plants supply almost all the water consumed in Jeddah: 98% to be exact. The population continues to grow in the water-scarce city. As a result, Suez has pledged to make drinking water accessible 24/7, repair links in drinking water networks and improve the efficiency of wastewater collection. Moreover, Suez has successfully decreased the amount of time it takes to repair leaks throughout the network. This proves to be an easy and vital way to preserve water.

In this endeavor, Suez has 1,400 local employees who support the delivery of about 830,000 cubic meters of water to people in Jeddah every day. According to CNN, strategies are less expensive or difficult than desalination. In addition, decreasing overall water use includes wastewater treatment, groundwater recharge through capturing rain and stormwater and allocating water differently. These methods combined with practices are already in place. Additionally, it could help fight the water crisis in Saudi Arabia.

The water crisis in Saudi Arabia is not currently claiming the lives of millions. However, it continued the unsustainable water consumption in one of the most water-scarce countries in the world. Like most geopolitical and environmental issues, the poor will suffer the worst in Saudi Arabia if the government does not manage the pending crisis responsibly. Luckily, there has been a concerted government effort, through its Qatrah program. The program slashes water consumption and consumes it more efficiently. This effort has strong support from NGOs like Suez. Suez focuses on other aspects of the crisis to help the Saudi people save what is becoming their most precious resource: water.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr