Saudi Press

Saudi Arabia and the world
Monday, Mar 27, 2023

Saving lives: How doctor’s pledge drives KSrelief, Saudi humanitarian aid

Saving lives: How doctor’s pledge drives KSrelief, Saudi humanitarian aid

As the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, “the humanitarian arm of Saudi Arabia,” expands its global reach, many abroad may not know about a doctor’s care that drives the organization’s lifesaving assistance.

KSRelief was established by King Salman in 2015 with the aim of “delivering relief and aid to all in the world who are in need.” In April of that year, Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, a pediatric surgeon and adviser to the Saudi Royal Court, was appointed its supervisor-general.

This is not the first time that Al-Rabeeah has held public office. He has already served a term as the Kingdom’s health minister, headed a number of its major medical projects and institutions, and for the past 30 years has spearheaded a program that separates conjoined twins born into poor families.

Al-Rabeeah has separated so many children since his first such surgery in 1990 that on the occasions when he gathers them for Saudi Conjoined Twins Program reunion meetings, they can barely fit in one frame of one photo.

In those family photos are children from all over the world, some already adults, who remain in touch with the doctor who for many has become a parental figure as well — one who has given them a new chance in life.

He, too, regards them as his children.

“For me, every twin matters and I can tell you myself, and all of my colleagues, the team, they believe that those children are part of their family,” Al-Rabeeah told Arab News.

Young patients from 23 countries have benefited from his surgical skill.

Conjoined twins are a rare phenomenon, estimated to occur once in every 50,000 to 60,000 births, with a somewhat higher incidence in Southwest Asia and Africa.

Al-Rabeeah and his team have to date separated 55 sets of conjoined twins. Their last surgery took place in January, when they operated on Iraqi toddlers Ali and Omar, who were conjoined at the lower chest and abdomen, sharing a liver, bile ducts and intestines.

The six-phase operation at King Abdullah Specialized Children’s Hospital in Riyadh took 11 hours, involving 27 doctors and nurses from different specialties.

Many previous surgeries were much longer and performed by even larger teams, depending on the point of attachment and the internal parts that the children shared.

Each case is different, but the emotional moment at the end of the surgery is always the same.

“After we do this operation, when the parents come running, their tears of happiness, this is truly what touches my heart,” Al-Rabeeah said. “We have seen it basically with every twin. We have seen it with the twins from Poland, from Yemen, from Iraq, from Saudi Arabia, from the Philippines.”

Most doctors try to maintain a distance from their patients, especially in cases when lives are at stake, as they fear their job may become too emotionally overwhelming.

For Al-Rabeeah, distance is impossible, especially when his patients are children. “I’m a strong believer that for a doctor to succeed, they have to treat their patients as part of their family,” he said.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah performs separation surgery on conjoined twins at King Abdullah Specialized Children’s Hospital in Riyadh in 2022.

“When you help, either save the life or improve the lives of children, especially conjoined twins, and you see them, how one body has become two bodies, one bed has become two beds ... I don’t think that’s something that you can forget easily. And for me it’s a lifelong bonding.”

Despite his increasing involvement in public service in Saudi Arabia over the years, Al-Rabeeah has never been off duty as a doctor, continuing to perform surgery even while serving as minister.

Medicine and saving lives is his calling — a path Al-Rabeeah would not change even if he could go back four decades to choose a different field.

“When I started studying medicine, I believed in it,” he said, recalling the time he joined the College of Medicine at King Saud University in Riyadh.

“When I selected the specialty of pediatric surgery, I believed in surgery, I believed in children ... When you do something, I always even teach (that) to my children: Don’t do anything unless you believe in it.”

His physician ethics are evident in Al-Rabeeah’s humanitarian work with KSRelief, which since its establishment has provided lifesaving emergency, food and medical assistance in 90 countries.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah and his team at King Abdullah Specialized Children’s Hospital in Riyadh in 2022.

These interventions, worth more than $6 billion, have over the past eight years positioned Saudi Arabia as one of the world’s most generous humanitarian donors and fastest aid responders.

The substantial and timely nature of the Saudi emergency response was evident when devastating earthquakes hit southern Turkiye and northern Syria last month, killing more than 50,000 people. In some of the affected regions, KSRelief teams were the first foreign rescuers to arrive with emergency aid and medical care.

The humanitarian crisis in Turkiye and Syria has also put KSRelief’s mission of encouraging public participation and support for Saudi relief efforts in the limelight. In the weeks since it launched an online campaign for earthquake victims, KSRelief has collected more than $130 million in private donations.

“With respect to the Saudi (emergency) response in both Syria and Turkiye, I’m proud of it,” Al-Rabeeah told Arab News on the sidelines of the Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum, hosted by KSRelief and the UN in the Saudi capital in late February.

At the conference, Saudi Arabia pushed for strengthening communication between global aid actors and finding solutions to response challenges, at a time when the number of natural and man-made disasters seems to be on the rise.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah poses in 2010 with a group of conjoined twins he has operated on.

“We have seen an increasing number of conflicts, disasters and earthquakes, so we have to improve our response and be quicker,” Al-Rabeah said. “Coordination remains an issue, especially when there is an emergency response, and this is an area that has been also discussed — how we can be more coordinated than ever.”

With the number of projects and interventions increasing every year and with the support it enjoys from the Saudi government, KSRelief may in the future lead the way in improving global aid.

“KSRelief is the humanitarian arm of Saudi Arabia,” Al-Rabeeah said. “I foresee KSRelief in 10 years to be one of the very key and important players in the humanitarian field. Not only to provide aid, because everybody can provide aid, but to be also instrumental in the policymaking of aid, and in improving the quality of aid.”

And there is no overstating his dedication to the cause. “Nothing touches my heart more than helping people in need,” Al-Rabeah said. “I believe in it.”


Related Articles

Saudi Press
In a dramatic U-turn against His Government: Judicial Reform Legislation Must Be Halted, Says Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant
Gordon Moore, a co-founder of Intel Corporation, died at 94
Powell: Silicon Valley Bank was an 'outlier'
Donald Trump arrested – Twitter goes wild with doctored pictures
NYPD is setting up barricades outside Manhattan Criminal Court ahead of Trump arrest.
Credit Suisse's Scandalous History Resulted in an Obvious Collapse - It's time for regulators who fail to do their job to be held accountable and serve as an example by being behind bars.
Goldman Sachs cuts outlook for European bank debt over Credit Suisse crisis
Paris Rioting vs Macron anti democratic law
Credit Suisse to borrow $54 billion from Swiss central bank
Russian Hackers Preparing New Cyber Assault Against Ukraine
"Will Fly Wherever International Law Allows": US Warns Russia After Drone Incident
If this was in Tehran, Moscow or Hong Kong
Announcing GPT-4
TRUMP: "Standing before you today, I am the only candidate who can make this promise: I will prevent World War III."
China is calling out the US, UK, and Australia on their submarine pact, claiming they are going further down a dangerous road
A brief banking situation report
We are witnessing widespread bank fails and the president just gave a 5 min speech then walked off camera.
Donald Trump's asked by Tucker Carlson question on if the U.S. should support regime change in Russia?.
Good news: The U.S. government is now guaranteeing all deposits, held by, Silicon Valley Bank, and the funds are available as of today
Silicon Valley Bank exec was Lehman Brothers CFO
Saudi Arabia has announced a major breakthrough in diplomacy with Iran after two years of intense talks
A Mississippian man, who was once considered a “ticking time bomb,” has lost a whopping 165 kilograms! What motivated this incredible transformation?
Elon Musk Is Planning To Build A Town In Texas For His Employees
The Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse effect is spreading around the world, affecting startup companies across the globe
Market Chaos as USDC Loses Peg to USD after $3.3 Billion Reserves Held by Silicon Valley Bank Closed.
Barcelona is feeling the heat as they face corruption charges over payments to former vice-president of Spain's referees' committee, Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira
Banking regulators close SVB, the largest bank failure since the financial crisis
Watch: “They are wounded but unbowed, unbreakable.”
Silicon Valley Bank: Struggles Threaten Tech Startup Ecosystem"
The unelected UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, an immigrant himself, defends new controversial crackdown on illegal migration
Old clip of Bill Gates saying Ukraine is a big, fat, corrupt sinkhole is going viral
Saudi Arabia To Introduce Yoga In Universities
Middle East real estate market to see strong growth in 2023, predicts CBRE.
In a major snub to Downing Street's Silicon Valley dreams, UK chip giant Arm has dealt a serious blow to the government's economic strategy by opting for a US listing
Saudi Aramco, the energy giant, has acquired Valvoline Inc., a US-based oil company, for $2.65 billion
How do stolen goods end up on Amazon, eBay and Facebook Marketplace?
It's the question on everyone's lips: could a four-day workweek be the future of employment?
Is Gold the Ultimate Safe Haven Asset in Times of Uncertainty?
Spain officials quit over trains that were too wide for tunnels...
Hello. Here is our news digest from London.
Corruption and Influence Buying Uncovered in International Mainstream Media: Investigation Reveals Growing Disinformation Mercenaries
When it comes to Tesla vs Lamborghini, an empty vessel makes more noise
European MP Clare Daly condemns US attack on Nord Stream
Former U.S. President Carter will spend his remaining time at home and receive hospice care instead of medication
North Korea test-fires an intercontinental ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan west of Hokkaido
Tucker Carlson called Trump a 'demonic force'
US bombed Nord Stream gas pipelines, claims investigative journalist Seymour Hersh
Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani bid in for 100% of Manchester United
US Joins 15 NATO Nations in Largest Space Data Collection Initiative in History
White House: No ETs over the United States