Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Jeddah Running Out of Bread

Tuesday, 12 February 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

JEDDAH - Many Jeddah bakeries closed their doors to customers because of ever increasing high flour prices.

Bakery owners waiting for flour from flour distributors said they were like beggars waiting outside a mosque. "I have closed one of my bakeries that has been in operation for 40 years, after tomorrow I will close the others," said Abu Ahmad who owns several bakeries in Jeddah.

Ahmad said that outside the Grain Silos and Flour Mills Organization (GSFMO) the atmosphere is more closely related to a mafia rather than a government flour distributor.

"There are a lot of people who sell the flour at unreasonable prices - they bought it from the government for SR22 then they sold it on the black market for more than SR80," Ahmad said.
Ahmad said that when he reported the high prices to the GSFMO about the illegal practices of the grain dealers, they responded by saying that was none of their business.

Flour sellers like Jadal Haq Hosein said he cannot provide customers with flour in sufficient quantities because he himself does not get enough from the distributors.

"Flour shops do not sell more than five kilograms per customer for two reasons: the first being we want to satisfy all our customers and secondly the distributors of flour don't supply shops with enough quantity," Hosein said.

Some customers spend up to three hours looking for bread. Many have asked the government for help. Adnan Kutubkhana, a Saudi customer said that bakeries cannot meet the demand of their customers in the conditions as they are.

"At these rates, after three days, the supermarkets and bakeries will be out of bread," Kutubkhana said.

"I looked for bread in more than 10 supermarkets, when I found it the bread vendor refused to give me more than two riyals' worth."

On Jan. 29, Saudi Gazette reported that the Ministry of Commerce would hold an emergency meeting with the GSFMO to resolve the issue of increasing flour prices.

Kutubkhana said he has not seen any action by the government as promised.

"Where is the control by Ministry of Trade and the committee that was formed to control the prices and markets?" he said.

Previously officials at the GSFMO said the shortage was caused by to several factors: a 10 percent rise in demand, population increases, suppliers not receiving flour ordered and flour smuggling to Yemen.

Poor management at the GSFMO is to blame, said a former grain supplier Ahmad Al-Ghamdi."The deliveries are not punctual and complaints have no effect. This is not a rumor, but if there is any talk of solving the problem, that is the rumor," Al-Ghamdi said.

Mesh'aal Al-Jabri, a flour distributor, said the crisis is orchestrated. Some workers reduce the quantity allocated to each retailer to force them to buy the flour at a higher price from the black market.

The GSFMO director at Jeddah's Islamic Seaport, Ali Obaid, said that the crisis would end in a few weeks.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Sunday, called for an emergency meeting with flour distributors and bakery owners to discuss the matter.

Hassan Ageel, undersecretary for Internal Trade Affairs at the Ministry of Commerce, said: "The prices are being monitored and a solution to the problem is underway.

The meeting will hopefully be able to end this crisis by providing more flour in the market and have the price decrease once again.

Many bakeries in Makkah, nearby villages and Taif have also closed due to the shortage of flour.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Traffic Interrupted on Majed Street

Monday, 11 February 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

JEDDAH - Motorists using Prince Majed Street here be warned: there's a traffic diversion at the old Plane roundabout with second phase work underway to transform the street into a freeway.

"The second phase work in the north of the Plane roundabout and Sari Street, is to connect Al-Rawdah Street with Al-Madinah Road," said Ahmad Ba-Nafe'e, general projects supervisor of Jeddah Municipality, on Sunday.

The third phase that will start later this month will see work starting on the south of the Plane roundabout, to link Prince Majed Street with Al-Tahlia Street.

First phase work to a built bridge connecting Hera'a street with Prince Majed Street, meanwhile continues.

All in all, the street will be problematic for motorists for months to come. "The area of the Plane roundabout will close completely in the fourth phase and traffic will be diverted to the south and north side of Prince Majed Street," Ba-Nafe'e said.

The municipality is implementing a SR470 million project to build nine new bridges and a tunnel in the city.

"The project aims to ease traffic jams by giving motorists alternatives, which in turn will decongest the streets," said Ba-Nafe'e. He said the new bridges will be built on the following intersections: Prince Majed Street- Grenada Street, Al-Tahlia Street-Umm Al-Qura Street, Makkah Road-Al-Eskan Street, Sari Street-Prince Sultan Street, Al Makkarouna Street- Hera Street, Al-Tahlia Street- Prince Met'eb Street, King Fahd Street- Quraish Street, and Prince Majed Street- Palestine Street.

A tunnel will be built at the King Abdullah Road- King Abdulaziz Road intersection. Ba-Nafe'e said work on the projects begin next month. The projects will take two years to complete.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Jeddah’s new Dump Opens

Monday, 04 February 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

The mayor of Jeddah, Adel Faqih, inaugurated a new garbage dump which will preserve the environment and have the least possible impact on Jeddah and its population, municipal sources said Sunday. Faqih said that the new garbage dump, located 45 km from the Briman bridge and to be ringed by a 9.5-kilometer reinforced concrete wall, will be larger than any dump created before in Jeddah.

"The new garbage dump will be large enough to span the wingspan of 44 jumbo jets and will be able to accommodate 25 million cubic meters of waste," Faqeeh said.

It will be able to produce fertilizer from wood, livestock and oil waste.

The new dump was built to the standards of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, which include placing a layer of clay between levels of garbage to ensure nothing can escape into the ground below. It will feature a gas production facility designed to function for 30 years.

The dump's operational cost of roughly SR5 per square meter daily, will be financed by recycling processes.

30 People Down with Dengue Fever after Rain

Wednesday, 30 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

JEDDAH - Hospitals here diagnosed at least 30 people with dengue fever this month after the recent rains in the city, a Health Ministry official said.

As a result, the municipality has gone on alert to quickly clear floods and water stagnation caused by rain. The mosquito-borne viral infection is likely to increase as winter rains continue, said
Khaled Al-Zahrani, assistant undersecretary for Preventive Medicine at the Ministry of Health. He said those found infected have left hospital after treatment.

In 2006, dengue fever claimed the lives of 1,314 people. However, there were no dengue deaths in 2007, according to Nabeel Abu Khutwah, an environmental science specialist at King Abdul Aziz University and consultant to Jeddah's mayor.

"The number of cases is lower this year compared to last year when MOH reported some 70 to 80 cases monthly. This month, MOH also detected four cases in Jizan while Makkah was reported free of the disease," Al-Zahrani said.

In Jeddah, the disease is isolated to districts in the east. "The sewage lake that is located about 20 km east of Briman Bridge is the reason - it prevents efforts to control the spread of the disease," he added.

The dengue mosquito breeds in stagnant but fresh water such as rain-fed swamps.
"These locations are also a haven for several migratory birds that can also cause avian flu," said a source in Jeddah Health Affairs, who requested anonymity.

Khutwah said people in flood-prone areas are at risk of catching the virus.
Dengue fever is believed to be the most dangerous mosquito-borne disease after malaria. Worldwide, there are around 40 million cases of dengue fever each year, and several hundred thousand cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever. More than 16,000 people died because of the disease worldwide in 2007.

The mayoralty's laboratory, which has detected 21 varieties of mosquitoes in the city, found that the second most common variety in the sewage lake area is the Aedes aegypti.

Jeddah Municipality's emergency plan to deal with flooding includes insecticide and pesticide spraying operations, said Abdul Ghaffar Azhari, deputy vice mayor for Cleanliness Services. The implementation of the plan includes several measures, such as securing the necessary pesticides.
"We will mobilize all insect prevention workers for a field survey immediately after rainfall," Azhari said. "We are also using GPS to locate clusters of water." "Three cleaning companies will implement the plan by working three shifts a day to clear water from the locations identified," he said.

"The Municipality has three classifications for water swamps. The first - rated dangerous - are swamps that cannot be cleared and so must be dealt with by spraying operations."

The second classification involves swamps that can be drained out to a large extent. Remaining water will be periodically sprayed with chemicals until such time the water is fully cleared. The third level - least dangerous - is running water, which can be controlled and chemically treated accordingly.

"Spraying process will focus on water storage basins and foliage areas plants, construction sites, industrial areas, rain water canals, and parks," Azhari said.

The dengue virus is contracted from the bite of a striped Aedes aegypti mosquito that has previously bitten an infected person. It cannot be spread directly from person to person. The symptoms are sudden onset of headache, fever, exhaustion, severe joint and muscle pain, swollen glands, and rash. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is a more severe form of the illness and can be life-threatening or even fatal. Because dengue is caused by a virus, there is no specific medicine or antibiotic to treat it. For typical dengue, the treatment is purely concerned with relief of the symptoms.