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Jason’s eyeopening experience in Saudi Arabia with IFRC

During the week of 14th to 20th September, my supervisors and I headed to Riyadh, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to help organize and participate in 3 events: the Global Red Cross Red Crescent Societies First Aid and Prehospital Services Workshop on 15th September, Asia Pacific and MENA Health and Care Strategy, Planning, Operations and Coordination Workshop on 16th September, and the Saudi Emergency Medical Services Conference SEMS 2023 between 18th to 20th September. During the events, experts from Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies, academic institutions and other key stakeholders in the field discussed and shared their ideas, experiences and achievements on topics such as education, inclusiveness and innovation. These recommendations outlined in these events serve as a foundation for future initiatives aimed at saving lives, reducing suffering, and promoting safety and preparedness in communities worldwide.

Figure 1: Me at front gate of SMES 2023 (top left), me in SEMS 2023 (top right), group photo after FA workshop (middle), during FA workshop (bottom left), me in SEMS 2023 twitter account (bottom right)

Figure 2: sign at Riyadh’s National Emergency Medical Services Command Centre entrance (top left), ambulance of SRCA from the past to now (middle left), helecoptor model at commend centre (top right), a page in First Aid training book in Braille (middle right), exhibitions outside SEMS 2023 main conference room (bottom left and right)

On top of the 3 main track events, our team was also brought to visit different sites and side tracks during the week.

On one of the nights, we were brought to a facility for the tactical emergency casualty course, where First Aiders were trained to provide emergency health services (EMS) in a threatening environment. Skills and techniques like haemorrhage (bleeding) control, dragging and carrying victims to safety and treating the wounded in threatening environments were taught. In the final session, the trained first-aiders did an active shooter event simulation, where they operated on a tactical team and tried to get the victims to EMS.

Another night, we visited Riyadh’s National Emergency Medical Services Command Centre, where the EMS 997 (999 in Hong Kong) Calls Centre hub of the Kingdom is located. Our team was introduced with the Call Centre, including the statistics, equipment, practical operation routines and their EMS helicopter fleet. It was astonishing and admiring how much the Kingdom has improved in their EMS services in the past decade.

Moreover, we were also brought to other workshop rooms. In one of the rooms, we participated in a First Aid training class, where people with visual challenges were taught with First Aid skills and methods to identify and locate patients who fell on the ground. The Saudi Red Crescent Authority even developed a First Aid training book in Braille, which is readable for all visually challenged around the globe. It was really surprising and appreciable for the Kingdom in terms of its inclusiveness for people with challenges physically and psychologically that meet or even surpass the international standards and developed countries.

Figure 3: me with a Saudi hawk (top left), Al Masmak Palace Museum قصر المصمك(top right), At-Turaif World Heritage Site حي الطّريف التاريخي (middle right), Saudi cuisines (middle and bottom left), a local market near Al Masmak Palace Museum (bottom right)

Last but not least, on top of the 3 events, we were also brought to visit different sites and experiences in Riyadh, where we could have an in-depth understanding of the Kingdom and the Arabic world historically and culturally. It was fortunate that we could visit museums, heritage sites and mosques and taste local cuisines despite the tight schedule of the events.

Overall speaking, the trip could be summed up as “eye-opening”. Throughout the week in Saudi, I have learnt the latest developments in EMS and First Aid, witnessed and got involved in organizing a huge global conference with thousands of participants, met experts from Red Cross Red Crescent Societies and heard first-hand news happening around the globe, enjoyed the hospitality and generosity of the hosts, etc, etc… And in this post, I would like to make special thanks to my boss in IFRC and my professors of the GHD programme so that I could have this precious opportunity!


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