Janadriyah visitors taken on a virtual refugee journey


JEDDAH — The UN Refugee Agency is offering visitors a chance to step into the refugees’ shoes and learn about their journey by creating an experiential zone using Virtual Reality technology headsets and a stimulation at its stand at the 33rd Janadriyah Festival.

The experiential zone has been designed for visitors to understand and empathize with the plight of displaced persons through a 360°photo and video experience and activation, taking them through the journey of a refugee — from fleeing their home to registering for support and protection in a foreign land.

“This is the first ever experiential zone we have setup in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for residents to understand the refugee crisis witnessed around the world today and which disproportionately affects Muslims and people in the Arab world,” said Khaled Khalifa, UNHCR regional representative to the GCC countries. “The VR experience, along with the immersive stimulation activation, showcases various situations that refugees undergo each day. With this activation we aim to raise further awareness about the plight of refugees and strengthen moral and financial support to their cause throughout the Kingdom and the region,” he said.

This is the third year in a row that UNHCR takes part in the festival with the purpose of familiarizing the community with its work whilst showcasing its longstanding partnership with the Kingdom in providing aid and relief to refugees and displaced persons.

Saudi Arabia is one of UNHCR’s largest donors in the Middle East and North Africa. Over the past decade, the Kingdom has contributed more than SR1 billion to humanitarian causes, while, in 2018 alone, Saudi contributions exceeded SR216 million. The funds have provided assistance to hundreds of thousands of refugees around the world, including emergency support for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, support to Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan and IDPs inside Syria as well as supplying core relief items for internally displaced people in Yemen. Also, since the introduction of UNHCR’s Zakat program, 744 generous individual Saudi citizens have allocated more than $635,000 of their zakat contributions to UNHCR, helping more than 3,700 refugee families.

Khalifa concluded: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is and continues to be a highly valued partner for UNHCR. We are grateful for all the support provided by the Saudi government and its different agencies, as well as to Saudi non-governmental institutions, private sector entities, and humanitarian actors who have supported UNHCR’s programs with more than $270 million over the past 10 years alone.”

The Janadriyah Festival outside Riyadh is an annual three-week cultural heritage festival organized by the National Guard since 1985. The 33rd edition of the festival, which commenced on Dec. 20, 2018, features varied events and activities. — SG








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