Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bacteria exist mostly in kitchens

The Gulf Today, 29 Aug 2009

Kitchens are dirtier than bathrooms when it comes to bacterial contamination. And the cleaning cloth used in the kitchen might be the dirtiest item in a home, reveals an international hygiene study.
Giving an insight into cleaning behaviours globally, the results of the study titled 'Hygiene in the Home Study 2009', which was carried out on international, regional and local levels, had been released at the Hygiene Council conference recently held in Cairo.
The study was carried out by the international Hygiene Council in eight countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Germany, India, Malaysia, South Africa, the UK and the US.
According to the study, 86 per cent of the kitchen clothes harbour worse levels of bacteria, and it's not a surprise that only 25 per cent of householders are aware of the fact that the kitchen clothes are having such dangerous level of bacteria.
"The kitchen tap is the second dirtiest item in a home. About 52 per cent, more than half, of the tested taps were unsatisfactory and only eight per cent of homeowners knew the truth," exposes the study.
Fifty-two per cent of the people who were questioned as part of the study thought the most contaminated item in the home would be the toilet flush handle.
In fact, the kitchen taps are twice, 13 per cent, more likely to be the home of E. coli than the toilet flushes that have six per cent only.
A majority of people often ignore the kitchen cloth when it comes to cleaning. They simply rinse it and wash it with liquid rather than disinfecting it.
Meanwhile, the toilet is generally considered as an important area to be cleaned up and that appears to be relatively clean. People are willing to change though.
A significant 89 per cent of the study participants were ready to change their cleaning habits for the better. However, 15 per cent of the participants failed the hygiene test.
John Oxford, Chairman of the Hygiene Council and Professor of Virology at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, told The Gulf Today that the hygiene study highlights significant gaps in the public's hygiene knowledge and these really need to be addressed.
"The importance of cleaning key hygiene hotspots in the home is paramount, particularly at a time when we're all concerned about the spread of infectious diseases such as swine flu. Practicing good hygiene is something we can all do to break the chain of infection and protect ourselves and our families."
Bacteria and Viruses
Dr Oxford explained that the clean look of things doesn't mean it is hygienically clean, bacteria and viruses cannot be seen by the naked eye.
Appearances can be deceiving and this was borne out by the study with 33 per cent of visibly clean kitchen cloths found to be dirty in microbiological terms. A further five per cent of clothes actually appeared to be relatively new yet failed the tests. In the cases of kitchen taps, 21 per cent also appeared clean, yet failed the tests.
Hygiene hypothesis
"The motivation for people to clean their home is sometimes challenged by the view that too much cleaning is bad for your immune system and contributes to an increase in allergic diseases," he added.
The Hygiene Council concluded that there is no scientific data to support this theory, commonly known as the hygiene hypothesis. While the organisation recognised that some exposure to microbes is an important step in the process of natural immunisation, in the sense that exposure to harmful pathogens can cause disease, but it's unnecessary and preventable.
An International consumer survey conducted by the Hygiene Council revealed that removal of germs from the home is often not the primary reason for cleaning with over a quarter of people, 27 per cent, only doing so to make their home 'look' clean and 'smell' nice.
"Participants in the Home Study 2009 of the Hygiene Council were also asked about the hygiene hypothesis. While support for the theory appears to vary significantly from country to country, overall a reassuring 43 per cent do not believe in the notion at all, while 24 per cent thought there might be some truth in it, but eight per cent of the participants were not sure. Only 25 per cent of them firmly believed in it," pointed out John Oxford.
He noted that it's important to be practical and pay attention to areas that represent the greatest risk of infection. Handwashing at key times, appropriate surface disinfection of hand and food contact sites and proper laundry sanitation are where efforts should be focused. Good hygiene advice has even more relevance now in light of the current swine flu outbreak.
Children at risk
According to Prof Oxford, the study showed that 10 per cent of highchairs (places where children eat) are heavily contaminated with bacteria, as toilet flushes, and five per cent of them are dangerously contaminated with E. coli, which is especially worrying as this poses a serious food safety risk.
"Just eight per cent identified the highchair as a primary area of contamination in the home. Over three quarters of highchairs were found to be satisfactory, most likely due to the fact that 84 per cent of respondents reported cleaning the highchair at least daily or every time it was used. Disturbingly though, eight per cent of householders said they never cleaned the highchair at all," he said.
Cold and flu protection
"Understanding of the importance of hand-washing in cold and flu prevention is relatively high among the survey respondents. Nearly half, about 45 per cent of them think 'washing hands regularly' is the most effective way to avoid catching a cold or flu, whilst more than 22 per cent of the respondents think 'covering your nose and mouth when someone else sneezes' is the safe way and 10 per cent of them believe surface disinfection provide the best solutions," added Professor Oxford.

Friday, August 28, 2009

H1N1 steps to ensure schools reopen on time

The Gulf Today, 28 Aug 2009

Reopening of private schools in the UAE after summer vacation will be as per schedule, confirmed the UAE Ministry of Health (MoH) as swine flu prevention measures have been put in place in all such schools across the country.
The ministry resolved the uncertainty over dealing with H1N1 influenza in schools at a session conducted on Thursday for private school representatives including doctors and nurses of schools clinics across the UAE.
The MoH, at a meeting held at College of Medical Sciences of the University of Sharjah, came up with comprehensive swine flu prevention strategies and plans as part of its national educational campaign against swine flu.
Wide-ranging plans
Dr Ali Ahmed Bin Shakar, Director General of the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Chairman of the Technical Health Committee for Combating H1N1, said, "The campaign focuses on wide-ranging plans that include training, education and spreading messages among parents and the general public. All the H1N1 influenza infected students can avail of free treatments through the primary healthcare centres."
According to him, responsibility should be shared among community members and different authorities, at least to prevent, if not to stop the spread of H1N1 influenza.
"The schools are not allowed to provide parents figures on the suspected swine flu cases as it would create a panic situation among them," Shakar pointed out.
Before schools start
Dr Yusef Al Tair, Head of Accidents and Emergency Department at MoH and Member of the Technical Committee for Combating Swine Flu, said, "The MoH will conduct a nation-wide swine flu prevention training programme in different schedules over the coming weeks, covering all the schools in the country before they reopen."
"A selected group of six staff members including teachers, students, administrative and service staff from each school will be educated in the workshop. The trained people will be in charge of working on the precautionary measures to be implemented and they will monitor suspected cases among students or teachers and deal with treatments and follow-ups," he added.
According to him, these trained personnel will be the MoH ambassadors of the swine flu prevention programme in each school, providing timely awareness sessions and lectures for their colleagues.
No med certificates
"Meanwhile, schools have not been permitted to demand swine flu-free medical certificates from parents for their children, on their return to class after vacation," pointed out Dr Gamil M Tourkey, Technical Director of Preventive Medicine Department of the MoH.
This disclosure came in the wake of reports that some schools have already sent letters to parents to produce such certificates.
"The schools are also not allowed to arbitrarily announce closure of their campus in the event of an H1N1 outbreak. The closure can only be finalised after an analysis by the ministry's Technical Health Committee to Combat Swine Flu as the MoH wants to ensure that educational activities will not be disrupted," he said.
Linking officials
Dr Yousif Mohamed Al-Serkal, Acting Director of Kuwait Hospital and Member of the Swine Flu Prevention Technical Committee, noted that the MoH has appointed a team of officials to liaise between educational districts and the MoH.
He said, "In the event of H1N1 suspected cases, the schools have to report the case to the school health department as also the respective educational district. Following that, the link (liaison) official will co-ordinate with the preventive medical department to deal with suspected cases reported from schools in the particular educational district."
According to him, the ministry will inform the schools or post on its web portal about the contact details of the link officials assigned in each educational district.
Advisory to schools
"The ministry also advises the schools to put about 1.5 metre distance between students in classrooms, and if possible, to avoid close contact with infected students. The disease is transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets that can reach others within a radius of six feet," Dr Tourkey pointed out.
Mohammed Al Khatib, Member of the Technical Committee and Coordinator between the MoH and the Schools, said, "In case of a suspected case in the school, the teacher has to take the MoH's primary precautionary measures in the class room itself."
Suspected cases
"The school nurse will check the class room of the suspected case, and will shift the suspected student to school's clinic. Every school has should set up a separate room for the suspected students to keep them isolated until their parents come and take them," Al Khatib added.
He further explained, "The MoH has instructed that parents should be notified by way of a specified format issued by the ministry, in case of their children being suspected of having the virus."
"The parents will take them home in their private vehicles, as public or school transportation systems will cause the transmission of the disease to other pupils," he added.
Hygiene measures
"All desks in the school should wash with disinfectants, as part of the measures to prevent spread the flu virus. Messages on hygienic hand-washing practices should be circulated among the students," noted Khatib.
According to Al Tair, the ministry had adopted a new policy on Aug.16, for testing the H1N1 influenza. No more rapid tests will be conducted for the disease, but confirmative lab tests will be done and the confirmed patients will be referred to hospitals for further treatment.
"All the procedures to deal with outbreak of the H1N1 influenza in schools will be implemented in accordance with the plans drawn by the MoH as well as Dubai Health Authority (DHA)," he stated.

31 Dubai restaurants fined

Penalised for flouting health measures, unlawful display of food
The Gulf Today, 27 Aug 2009

At least 31 eateries in Dubai were penalised for violating regulations on food safety and hygiene measures in displaying Ramadan snacks outside their premises, since the beginning of Ramadan.
Dubai Municipality (DM) had asked restaurants, cafeterias and other eateries in the emirate to obtain special approval for selling Ramadan dishes and snacks displayed outside their premises during the Holy Month. The approval is provided upon conditions of complying with the civic body's regulations on food safety, and public health measures.
The civic body has granted 141 temporary permits to restaurants as of Wednesday, for displaying the food items targeting Ramadan customers, a senior DM official said.
Drive strengthened
Abdul Azeez Basheer, a senior food inspection officer at DM, told The Gulf Today that the inspection campaign to trap erring eateries and restaurants, that street-vend snacks and food items without permission by not complying with the food safety regulations, has been strengthened.
"A number of popular food outlets were fined for not applying the DM's requirements of health and food safety. Most of the irregularities have been discovered in the unhygienic methods of food handling and unclean food preparation," he added.
According to him, the inspectors of the food control department have been carrying out daily inspections in different parts of the emirate. Several popular kitchens, restaurants, cafeterias and food outlets have been inspected so far.
Regulations memo
Ahmed Abdel Rahman Al Ali, Head of the Food Inspection Section at the DM's Food Control Department, said, "The DM had issued a memorandum specifically providing the requirements on the methods of preparing and showcasing food items at restaurants and outside their premises during the Ramadan."
He added that the regulations come in line as the practice is popular in the region, to display snacks and dishes outside cafeterias and restaurants during Ramadan. So, all of the food outlets operational in the emirate should ensure safety and hygienic measures for customer's consumption, especially since they traditionally prefer to purchase the Iftar foods sold in the streets.
“Moreover, the month of Ramadan this year is witnessing high temperatures that may lead to quick damage to the prepared food items if they are not stored scientifically," Al Ali pointed out.
He noted that the eateries obtaining the separate approval from the Municipality should sell the Ramadan snack foods in closed display cases in clean areas that free of spills, dirt and pests.
Food safety measures
According to Bobby Krishna, a senior food safety officer at the municipality, the snacks with stuffed high-risk foods such as meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and eggs should be held hot at or above 65 degrees Celsius, and cold items have to be stored below 5 degrees.
"Certain snacks like Pakoras or fries that are not stuffed can be kept without hot holding, not exceeding two hours since the time of their preparation. The fried food items should be prepared using high quality and pure cooking oil," he said.
"We are checking the equipment in food outlets to keep the cooked food items in hot holding. Reheating processes also will be monitored," added Krishna.

Street-vending of Iftar snacks needs approval

The Gulf Today, 25 Aug 2009
EATERIES, restaurants and cafeterias selling snack foods outside their premises or in streets during the Holy month of Ramadan must obtain a temporary approval to display the food items targeting the Ramadan customers.
Dubai Municipality (DM) will provide the special permit for street vending of snacks, upon conditions of complying with the civic body’s regulations on food safety and public health measures, according to a senior DM official.
The civic body has issued a memorandum in this regard to all the food outlets operational in the emirate, in order to ensure that the food items prepared and displayed at eateries during the holy month are safe and hygienic for the consumption of customers.
Khalid Mohammed Sharif, Director of Food Control Department at DM, said: “Displaying snacks on streets or outside the restaurants is a common practice in the region during Ramadan to attract Ifthar customers who traditionally prefer to buy snack foods sold in the streets. But it’s their right to avail the best food items, considering the health and hygiene measures of international standards.”
“The eateries obtaining the separate approval from the Municipality should sell the Ramadan snack foods in closed display cases in clean areas that free of spills, dirt and pests,” he added.
Fines on violators
Ahmed Abdul Rahman Al Ali, Head of the Food Inspection Section at DM, revealed that restaurants which display fast foods without a permit from the Municipality will be slapped with a fine of Dhs20,000.
“The violators of general food safety regulations will face hefty fines ranging from 200 to 5000 Dirhams. High risk violations of the food safety regulations will invite a fine of Dhs.20,000, followed by closure of the erring eateries for gross violations,” he added.
According to him, the fines will be multiplied, if the DM inspectors find out that the violations are repeated or the particular issue is not solved.
Bobby Krishna, Senior Food Safety Officer of the Municipality, pointed out, “All snacks with stuffed meat products, vegetables and eggs should be held hot at or above 65 Deg Celcius until the items are sold out.”
“Certain snacks like Pakoras or fries that are not stuffed can be kept without hot holding, not exceeding two hours since the time of their preparation. The food outlets will be fine with Dhs.500, if they are not having equipments or facilities to keep the cooked food items hot holding,” he said.
Food handling
Krishna explained that the food handlers who prepare or sell the snacks should maintain high standards of personal hygiene. They should not use bare hands to handle the snacks, which should be sold in clean packs. A Dhs.200 fine will be imposed on the staff members who are not wearing hand-glows and hairnet.
“Meanwhile, pork dishes are permitted in only limited food outlets in the city. If the civic body inspectors find out that pork dishes are sold at outlets without a permission, a huge fine of Dhs.50,000 will be imposed on the violators,” he added.
Food safety reason
According to him, proper temperatures can only help control the growth of pathogens (agents such as bacteria that can cause disease) in the cooked food items, which are held out of temperature is considered a serious risk factor.
“Open display of cooked food leads to contamination and renders the food unsafe for human consumption. Bacteria, viruses and other pathogens can find its way into the food through contaminated environment, people and pests,” Bobby added.
Meanwhile, Khalid Sharif advised the consumers not to buy the snack foods from outlets that do not follow the civic body’s instructions and regulations on public health and food safety. The purchased foods should be consumed as soon as possible and do not store them for more than two hours.

Dubai-based family killed in India


The Gulf Today, 24 Aug 2009

A Dubai-based engineer and his four-member family, including two minors, were murdered in Hyderabad, the capital city of the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
The Dubai resident Kadali Prasada Rao (40) was working with Dubai Petroleum for the past 10 years.
When The Gulf Today contacted the oil company, an official said: “The only thing we know is that the man and his family has been killed in India. We cannot provide any further information about this particular incident as per our company policies.”
The bodies of Rao, his wife Vijayalakshmi (37), daughter Kavitha (11) and son Ketan (10) were found at a lodge near the railway station in Secunderabad on Saturday morning.
The family was supposed to fly back to Dubai on Aug.21 after their vacation in Hyderabad. He had reserved flight tickets for Friday to fly to Dubai from the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport. His passport and flight ticket were found by the police in the lodge room.
The Indian media (including The Times of India and The Hindu) reported that all the victims were strangulated to death. The Gopalapuram Police of the area had launched an investigation into the massacre, which came to light in the early hours of Saturday.
The police broke open the doors of the victims as the lodge employees became suspicious after a foul smell began emanating from the rooms, which were locked from outside.
“Rao was lying dead on the floor in one room with bleeding injury on his head, while the bodies of his wife and kids were on the cots in another room of the RAK Royal lodge,” said the Indian newspapers.
Rao hailed from Medicherlapalem of Rajolu in East Godavari district. He came to his village from Dubai last time following the death of his brother. He used to come to the village with the family during vacations.
According to the reports, the police were on the lookout for four others who had checked in the lodge along with the victims’ family four days ago. Rao and his family came to the city along with two other families on Aug.19 and checked into the lodge in the evening.
The police suspect the hand of close relatives of the victims behind the crime, which was executed due to property disputes or personal animosity.
The police have sent the victims’ bodies for forensic tests.

Safety sanction needed for Ramadan tents

The Gulf Today, 20 Aug 2009

All tents erected in Dubai for serving Ifthar parties to the believers during the Holy month of Ramadan require safety inspection and approval by the authorities.
The tents can be erected only after obtaining a license from the Dubai Municipality (DM). The planning department of the civic body, along with the Civil Defense Department in Dubai, has sketched a set of safety measures and conditions to be followed by those who want to build Ramadan tents.
The municipality has urged all organisations, companies or individuals to apply for the license to set up a Ramadan tent, so the Civil Defence Department officials can inspect and ensure their safety aspects and precautionary measures.
“The Civil Defence Dept will give a safety approval on complying with safety regulations, followed by a temporary Ramadan permit issued by DM's Planning Department,” said a senior DM official.
Dawood Al Hajeri, Director of the Planning Department at DM, said, “As the running of Ramadan tents without the authorities’ approval illegal, the tent operators will be subject to the stringent penal actions, including prosecution in the events of fire or any other accident.”
“The safety requirements have been drafted in order to protect the life and property from fire hazards during the Holy Month. The regulations vary depending on the type and size of the tents as well as the material used and purpose. The tents should have sufficient space, width and height for the convenience of visitors,” he added.
According to him, the interior fabric of the tents should be sprayed with flame-resistant liquid, and a four metres distance must keep from other Ramadan tents or buildings.
“Air conditioners should arrange 1.5 metres away from the tent, and a hose to pump cooled air into the tent should fix. The safety regulations included fire extinguishers at clear and visible locations in the tent, more than one exit and a clear passage in case of an evacuation,” pointed out Al Hajeri.
Companies that erect tents have to keep all possibilities in mind, and be aware of the fact that accidents can happen.
Dubai Municipality has issued circulars to all establishments reminding them about the regulations in Ramadan tents and urging them to seek proper permission.
“We already have a lot of people who approached us enquiring about the procedures,” said Hajeri.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Team to study building crash

The Gulf Today, 18 Aug 2009
A SPECIAL technical team of Dubai Municipality (DM) has been formed to study the reasons for the collapse of the eight-storey building on Sunday evening in Dubai.
Essa Al Maidour, the DM's Assistant Director General for Planning and Building Affairs, said that the DM will enforce the safety standards to be adopted at constructions sites in all stages. The civic body will further toughen its inspections at the construction sites, in the wake of the Sunday building collapse.
"All the consultancy and contracting companies operating in the emirate of Dubai will have to strictly abide by the application of the security requirements by the DM, and violators will be punished strictly," he added.
"The DM has imposed the best international safety standards and will check out on the construction sites and maintain records of its signatories," he stated.
Maidour said that the specialised technical team to inquire into the incident consists of the civic body officials from the planning and building affairs department. The committee is headed by Engineer Marwan Abdullah, engineering and supervision chief of the department.
He pointed out, "The collapsed building consisted of three basement floors, plus one ground floor and other four floors. The committee is currently reviewing the construction plans of the building to examine all possible reasons of the tragic accident."
"A number of technical aspects are included in the issue. The technical team will inspect in details all the possible reasons, including the safety aspects of soil quality measures and groundwater," he said.
Maidour said that the technical team is also working on the audit and details of the particular construction site. They will check out whether the company has conducted necessary lab tests required by the municipality.
No casualties or injuries were reported in the incident. The commercial building was under construction near Ramada Hotel and City Bay on Al Hail road in Deira.
Meanwhile, the building collapse damaged at least 12 cars and caused the loss of millions of dirhams.

8-storey building crashes in Deira

The Gulf Today, 17 Aug 2009
Pix by Prashant Mununthan

An eight-storey commercial building located near by Ramada Hotel and City Bay on Al Hail road in Deira, collapsed on Sunday evening.
The Civil Defence teams, the police and ambulances rushed to the scene after receiving information about the building collapse.
No casualty
A project manager, who was inside the building with twenty-two workers a short time before the collapse, told The Gulf Today that the building had been evacuated as soon as people heard the vibration of the concrete blocks.
The contracting company supervising the project was about to hand it over in a few days time.
Meanwhile, an investigation into the incident will be launched by the Dubai Municipality (DM) to find out whether the construction company has committed any violation of the rules and regulations outlined by the civic body. The competent authorities are trying to discover the reasons behind the incident.
Essa Al Maidour, the DM's Assistant Director General for Planning and Building Affairs, said, "A technical committee has been formed by the DM in order to inquire into the case and check the level of violations, if any, in the building construction regulations."
"The technical committee will submit its report once it's finalised and action will be taken by the municipality accordingly," he added.
A number of cars that were parked near the building had were damaged.

Cabby charred to death in Sharjah

The Gulf Today, 19 Aug 2009
Pix by Kamal Kassim

A Pakistani taxi driver was charred to death inside his car on Tuesday morning in Sharjah. The cause of the fire in the taxi is not yet known.
Sharjah Police have started investigations into the cabby's tragic demise.
The 45-year-old man, Sayed Ali Shah, was an employee of Sharjah's Union Taxi Company. He hailed from Pakistan's Kurrum Agency Parachinar area in NWFP, said a friend of the deceased.
A police official, who was at the site of the tragedy, told The Gulf Today that the Sharjah Police operations room received a call on Tuesday morning at around 11am, from an eyewitness who saw a taxi car in flames.
"The deceased was fully burnt along with his car, which was parked in a parking lot near a building located opposite Al Bustan Beach Hotel in the Al Khan area," the police have confirmed.
"The car was parked and not moving at the time of the accident. The body of the taxi driver was badly burnt," said the police official.
Anjad patrols, Civil Defence Department officials, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officials and an ambulance were seen at the accident site.
The ambulance carried the burnt body to the forensic laboratory to ascertain the actual cause of the tragedy.
Meanwhile, Sayed Sharif Hussain, nephew of the deceased, was seen shedding tears at the site where his uncle burnt to a heap of ashes.Sharif, also a driver with Dubai's Cars Taxi, was unable to speak. He rushed to the scene where his uncle's burnt body was being shifted to the ambulance for further forensic tests. His last meeting with his uncle was 15 days ago.
Sharif will accompany the dead body during its repatriation to Pakistan, when the police procedures are completed.
Medical examiners collected evidence from the location of the accident, in order to investigate the actual reason behind the fire that erupted in the car. The investigators have to determine whether the incident was a suicide attempt or if the accident involved foul play.
"The engine of the car didn't catch fire in the accident, but the fire completely engulfed the cabin, glasses and seats. Nothing remained except for a black shirt that was found in the damaged driver's seat," the police explained.
The Gulf Today talked to an on-site medical examiner about the reason behind the eruption of fire inside the car that led to the tragic death of the driver, but he refused to reveal details about to the accident.
He said, "We cannot reveal the exact reason behind the fire and the death of the driver until we complete our investigation."
"There was nothing wrong with the engine of the burnt car, and it seemed that the fire erupted inside its cabin. So we couldn't detect any technical fault in the engine of the car," the official confirmed.
Sajid Hussain, a native friend of the deceased, said, "Ali Shah had worked with Union Taxi for almost one year and two months. He had been residing in the UAE for over ten years, most of the time in Al Ain."
Hidayath Hussain, another friend of the deceased, said, "Presently, he was living in the Hor Al Anz area of Deira. He slept there on Monday night with his other five room-mates, and left for work early on Tuesday morning."
"Ali Shah is survived by his wife, a daughter, four sons and mother," said Ikrar Husain, another neighbour, who also rushed to the scene immediately after he learnt of the tragedy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Combating H1N1 spread in GCC schools


The Gulf Today, 17 Aug 2009

A comprehensive operational plan will be implemented in the schools of the Gulf region, to prevent the outbreak of H1N1 influenza.

"The precautionary measures for combating the spread of the epidemic have been drafted by the executive council of the Arab health ministers, as the region's schools are preparing for the commencement of the new academic year," said a high-ranking official in the UAE Ministry of Health (MoH).

Dr Ali Ahmed Bin Shakar, Director General of the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Chairman of the Technical Health Committee for Combating Swine Flu, said that the UAE, the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Sultanate of Oman have agreed to execute the unified plan for protecting students, teachers and administration officers of schools in these countries from the swine flu viral infection.

Dr Shakar participated in the GCC health ministers' executive council meeting held on Saturday in Kuwait.

"Before re-opening of schools, an in-depth plan will be charted out to curb the spread of the virus, and measures will be put in place in the event of an outbreak. An interaction with all the concerned bodies, parents, and teachers will be carried out as part of the plan. A special officer has been assigned in this regard, to communicate with all the GCC countries," said Shakar.

"Meanwhile, closure of the H1N1-affected schools will be decided according to the guidelines and measures drafted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the centres for disease control," he noted.

Training in schools

"All schools will be provided instructions on implementing the swine flu prevention measures. Instructors from the ministry of education will also be given training on the basic methods and scientific facts for dealing with the influenza," he added.

According to him, the training will be conducted in coordination with the ministries of education and health.

Media plan

A media plan is also on the cards to raise awareness of the disease in the schools. Prompt actions will be initiated in case of detection of the disease in schools, so as to deal with students with other sorts of health risks.

"Whereas soaring temperatures in the peak of summer have contributed to arresting the spread of the disease in the region, with the onset of winter, the possibility of it spreading with renewed vigour cannot be ruled out," alerted Dr Shakar.

PCR tests vital

"Therefore, the PCR tests on patients arriving from swine flu-affected areas into the region should be strictly monitored for symptoms. There will be detailed monitoring to analyse the patient's condition -- severe or moderate -- to determine whether hospitalisation is required," he pointed out.

Shakar explained, "The PCR tests will be conducted on all cases that have respiratory disease or pneumonia, as well as people with high-risk such as pregnant women, patients with known cardiovascular diseases or diabetes, those who suffer from obesity, patients with genetic blood disorders, chronic kidney or liver patients."

In terms of prevention and treatment, the apex meeting proposed a set of recommendations to control the H1N1 virus. Appropriate treatments, vaccination and methods of use were also discussed in the meeting.

The meeting approved the adoption of home isolation of infected people as the proper scientific solution as per the WHO standards for protecting others from the infection of the virus.

The measures and procedures adopted among member countries for prevention of the swine flu outbreak were also reviewed. It also urged to regularly update the flu monitoring plans in coordination with competent international bodies.

In addition, studies on the patterns of the outbreak of the H1N1 virus Type-A in the member countries were also mandated.

The GCC countries will keep a unified register for all H1N1 cases, an exercise aimed at providing a reference database.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Meteor no-show leaves hundreds crestfallen

Gibbous moon, windy conditions play villains- block out the celestial show


The Gulf Today, 14 Aug 2009

Pix by Kamal Kassim

Oops, they did it again. Hundreds of meteors were expected to flare up the sky early Thursday morning, but didn't. The shooting stars disappointed hundreds of astronomy enthusiasts who had congregated in the darkness of the desert to catch a rare glimpse of the spectacle.

Despite worsening weather conditions that included sand storms in the wilderness of the desert, about 400 residents kept their date on Wednesday evening at Dubai's Margham desert area, located 70 kilometres off the city, to observe the meteors expected to be showering in the early morning of Thursday.

Moon plays villain

"People from different walks of life attended the scheduled viewing, but the moon decided to play villain. Its rays curtained the visibility of nature's fireworks," said the organisers.

Dubai Astronomy Group (DAG) had organised this meteor observation camp, intended to give astronomical enthusiasts a unique opportunity to enjoy the spectacle that promised up to 10 meteors falling in a minute.

Hasan Ahmad Al Hariri, President of the DAG, pointed out, "Dust in the air was increasing at the time. But the main reason for the meteors not being visible was the glare of the moon that appeared over the horizon."


"We could bring together such a huge crowd for the scientific event, but we felt extremely bad as the climatic conditions played truant. When we started from Dubai, the wind was normal but grew in intensity in the desert, thus proving to be an embarrassing experience for the viewing public."

"In the desert, the ground sand was moving rapidly, making it difficult to set up the facilities, equipment and power systems. It even proved difficult for the people sitting on the ground," he added.

In ideal conditions

"In an ideal event of the phenomenon, we can expect around 60 to 100 meteors per hour. But the glare of the Gibbous moon (three fourth of the normal moon) blocked out the meteors from the eyes of the observers," explained Amol Mane, a working member of the DAG.

"We expected the Perseids meteor shower to be one of the best this year. Meteors are small marble-sized pebbles with mud, which usually burn up in the atmosphere. They are visible occasionally, with fireballs burning up immediately after touching the atmosphere. We were expecting to see the meteors like a straight line of lightening moving across the sky as fast as 11 to 72 km per second," he added.

3 telescopes

"Meanwhile," Hariri explained, "To watch the solar system, we provided the participants three different telescopes including a big 10 inch telescope, a five inch refractor and an eight inch reflector."

He added, "People could watch different aspects of the solar system, comets, milky ways, galaxies and constellations. The participants were given lessons on how to observe the sky in its full spectrum, by lying down on the ground and watching the sky on 180 degree level."

Viewers' views

According to Sayed Mohammed Farrukh, a marketing support executive with du, the meteors observation camp was inspiring. "I am pretty happy, as I had a unique experience in the desert. I am attending a scientific camp for the first time in my life."

"Unfortunately, our mission to watch the spectacular meteoric shower lighting up the sky of the UAE failed. But we came to experience the passion of the people behind the voluntary organisation, the Dubai Astronomy Group (DAG)," he said.

"Now, I want to study more about the stars, sky, galaxies, milky ways and other wonders of the universe," Farrukh revealed.

Jermi Husain Dacunhia, a nine-year old Brazilian boy seemed to be the youngest among the science camp participants.

"Watching the sky, especially the moon through a telescope is my passion. For that only I compelled my mom to join the observation team. I am disappointed at not being able to see the meteors, but it was fun as I could catch some awesome views of the moon, Jupiter and the constellations," the boy said.

"My ambition is to be a scientist. I also have interests in writing science fiction as I much love the fantastic world of science literature," he added.

Yara Zhulina, a Ukrainian national residing in Dubai, attended the camp along with her friend Nataliya. She said they vastly enjoyed the trip well, as she could meet a number of people who are interested enough in astronomy to get together in the dead of night despite having to rush back to their offices early next morning.

She said, "I am not an expert in astronomy, but I simply wanted to watch the meteors shower when I heard about the unusual event. Even though I missed the meteors, I could watch the moon, Jupiter and other constellations in the presence of astronomers and experts in the subject and got some valuable lessons on astronomy," she added.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Shower of meteors to light up the UAE sky

The Gulf Today, 12 Aug 2009

Hundreds of meteors will be visible showering over the sky of the UAE in an unusual astronomical phenomenon on Thursday early morning and residents will be able to observe the nature's fireworks.
Dubai's Margham desert area, about 50 kilometres off the city, is the perfect spot to watch the wonder, as the remote area is dark and secluded to enjoy the showering of meteors, according to Dubai Astronomy Group (DAG).
The DAG has arranged a meteor observation trip with all facilities for the public to the Margham desert camp, where astronomical enthusiasts can enjoy the spectacle with up to 10 meteors falling in a minute.
Hasan Ahmad Al Hariri, President of DAG, told The Gulf Today that the Perseids spectacle appears to emanate from the constellation in the northern sky called Parshawyyat (Bearer of Ghoul's head in Arabic). The Perseus is named after the Greek_hero Perseus.
"The Perseids meteors are supposed to be the debris of dirt and ice, falling from the comet named Swift-Tuttle. We will be able to watch the meteors like a lightening straight line moving in the sky as fast as 11 to 72 km per second. It's a celestial incident that had already begun on 17th of last month and runs until Aug.24," said Hariri.
"But the climax of the meteors show will be unveiled on Thursday early morning. The meteors usually fall in the month of August. In the coming couple of days, one of the best showering of the shooting stars can be spectacularly visible as they reach the peak," he added.
Desert Camp
According to him, the spectacle cannot be viewed from parts of the city due to the density of buildings as well as the light spread all over.
Hariri said, "It's the reason for selecting Margham desert area as the ideal spot where people can watch the meteors display under total darkness. Interested people can get together outside Emirates Coop Society in Al Tawar-2 at 9pm on Wednesday in their own vehicles and go in convoy to Margham camp guided by astronomists and officials of the Dubai Astronomy Group."
He pointed out, "Perseids meteor showering is one of the best happenings this year. Even though, the spectacle happens regularly, this particular incident is unique because of the brightness and frequency of the falling meteors."
"As the chances for observing the meteors at night is limited by the presence of a bright moon, we encourage people to move out of the city, especially avoid beaches and similar areas within the city to avoid light pollution," he suggested.
Hariri explained that the eteors are discovered in the year 1862. The rocky debris falling from wandering comets takes shape as the shooting stars filling the sky with dazzling colours during the particular time of the night.
"They are small marble size pebbles with mud which usually burn up in the atmosphere. But it is visible occasionally, with fireballs burning up immediately after touching the atmosphere," he added.
According to him, the falling rocks from the annual passing of a comet are created at the outer rims of the solar system. They warm up as they move towards the sun and the ice melts and evaporates taking large pieces of mud with it and leaving a tail behind the comet.
"The planet earth passes near the path annually, so the small dust balls come from the material in the tail. The comet takes about 130 years to orbit the sun. The meteors melt as they penetrate the hemisphere because of their friction with the higher air layers of the earth," he added.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Teams to keep eye on food outlets

Compulsory training for workers, lab contract on menu

The Gulf Today, 8 Aug 2009

Employees of all food outlets, eateries, cafeterias and restaurants which fail to comply with food safety regulations will have to undergo a regular biennial compulsory training programme, according to a senior official at Dubai Municipality (DM).
"The food outlets will have to sign a contract with an accredited private laboratory, which will collect food samples from the eateries for tests regularly, on a six-month basis. The tests will verify the validity of food prepared for consumption and ensure safety measures are undertaken," said Ahmed Abdul Rahman Al Ali, Chief of Food Inspection Section at the DM.

Inspection system
Khalid Mohammed Sharif Al Awadhi, Head of Food Control Department at DM, said, "The civic body is taking efforts to update its inspection system at eateries as per international standards in order to raise the quality of food served as well as to increase the hygienic environment and amenities of the restaurants."
"The latest efforts to strengthen the inspection procedures at food outlets and eateries operational in Dubai come in the wake of recent food poisoning incidents that have raised serious public health concerns," he added.
He pointed out, "The civic body has formed a special team to update the inspection system for food serving centres. The team headed by Ahmed Abdul Rahman Al Ali includes nine members from the same section and food planning department."
"The team will conduct training programmes for the employees of the food outlets and restaurants in order to educate them on the basics of public health and give lessons on preparing and handling food items," he added.
Al Ali said, "The municipality is focusing on the restaurants, which are weak in following the food safety rules sketched by the civic body. Such restaurants will be subject to further warnings to raise their standards and effective changes followed by general fines. The actions will be based on the results of the evaluations."
"The knowledge of the workers on food safety and hygienic cooking and serving practices will be tested in the refreshment training programmes. One of the employees will be chosen to obtain an advanced training in order to deal with him as a health supervisor. The food safety programme titled Safe Menu will conduct compulsory training sessions for the restaurants' management staff," he added.

Erring outlets
Al Ali noted that the erring food outlets will be temporarily suspended from operation in the event of irregularities in maintaining the standards of food. If the violations are repeated for a second time in a row, the restaurant will be shut down temporarily in addition to heavy fines.
According to Al Awadhi, the first phase of the action plan is the review of the current food inspection scenario in Dubai. The newly formed team will determine the capacity and efficiency of the municipality food inspectors by assessing their ability to identify high-risk irregularities happening in the food outlets.
"As part of implementing the second phase of the action plan, the selected inspection team members will undergo a series of in-depth training sessions to raise their efficiency. The technical status and healthy environment of the eateries will be checked to ensure that they comply with the regulations of the civic body," pointed out Al Ali.
According to him, the food studies and planning section will adopt a standard food menu for all restaurants as part of a new scheme approved by the higher authorities of the municipality.

Friday, August 7, 2009

1st DubaiSat-1 images beamed from space

The Gulf Today, 7 Aug 2009

The UAE's first remote sensing satellite DubaiSat-1 has transmitted its first series of images from space.
The high-resolution test images, including a snapshot of the Palm Jebel Ali, were received at satellite's ground station in Dubai earlier on Thursday, according to officials at the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST).
DubaiSat1 had achieved its optimal orbit on July 29, and the satellite orbits the earth four times a day.
"The quality images of relevant phenomena, such as the Palm Jebel Ali, are the first fruits of DubaiSat-1. The successful images are an indication of diverse capabilities to be realised imminently," said Ahmed Al Mansoori, Director General of EIAST.
"The satellite is sending images of the UAE as often as possible, and we hope the images received through DubaiSat1 will play a significant role in numerous UAE civilian programmes of the country," he added.
Mansoori noted, "After processing and analysis, the satellite's images will provide information and data that serve the UAE's development and assist in decision-making.
EIAST will work with various government authorities and establishments to deliver the needed imaging."
According to him, the delivery of the images from the orbiting satellite confirms the safety and efficiency of DubaiSat-1's operational processes.
"DubaiSat-1 is operating ahead of schedule, and it will continue to capture and deliver images for use in the entire civilian and environmental programmes of the UAE," he said.
The first earth observation satellite of the UAE successfully blasted off into space from Baikonur Cosmodrome space centre in Kazakhstan earlier this week. The satellite orbits 14 cycles daily around the earth, 680km above the planet. DubaiSat-1 was launched into the orbit by Russian launcher Dnepr, along with five other satellites, including Britain's Deimos 1 and UK-DMC 2, Spain's Nanosat 1B, AprizeSat 4 and AprizeSat 3.
According to Adnan Mohammed Al Rais, Associate Research Engineer of DubaiSat1, the satellite launch consists of two segments, namely space and ground. "The current research projects of DubaiSat1 include infrastructure development for urban and rural planning, civil development and construction," he said.
"The space segment comprises the development, design and manufacture of satellite equipment and components of the measurement and imaging. While the ground segment includes the mission control station, image receiving and processing station, antenna and RF subsystem," Al Rais added.

Eco-strategic plan in the pipeline

The Gulf Today, 7 Aug 2009
Pic by Mohammed Rasheed

An advanced strategic plan by Dubai Municipality (DM) will outline comprehensive policies towards the management of waste generated in Dubai, as well as strategies to protect the environment of the emirate.
The Municipality recently held a meeting with representatives of various departments, developers and the private sector to discuss Dubai's strategy for the environment sector and treatment of waste for the years 2010 -2014.
The strategy of the civic body for the years 2010-2014 will have in-depth plans for the environment sector and treatment of waste in the city, said a senior DM official.
DM is currently preparing the strategic plan, which is on the pipeline in the wake of an increase in a number of environmental challenges that the city is facing, according to Mariam Al Hammadi, DM's head of the Corporate Excellence Department.
"The levels of strategic planning in Dubai Government and the requirements for the preparation of the strategic plan will identify the key elements of the strategy and a time frame for preparation," he added.
Hamdan Al Shaer, Head of the Environment Department at DM, said, "Dubai is facing multi-dimensional challenges and obstacles in protecting its environment."
"The issues are increasing in various areas including the quality of air, waste management, the marine environment, groundwater, soil, desertification control, wildlife, fisheries and the deployment of green areas," he added.
According to Al Shaer, the environmental strategic plan for 2010-2014 is significant as it is high time to face the challenges and mitigate the effects caused by environmental and waste related issues.
"The residents of the city have to be provided with a safe, healthy, green and attractive environment for living in the city. In order to accomplish the strategies, intensive efforts should be taken by all institutions and government departments and the private sector," he pointed out.

70 held under decency law in Sharjah

The Gulf Today, 7 Aug 2009

A recent public decency campaign that was kicked off on July 1 has caused confusion and fear among men wearing necklaces and other accessories.
They are anxious that they might be violating rules.
Lieutenant Colonel Yousef Al Naqbi, Head of the Criminal Investigation Department, clarified, "The campaign is not targeted at men who wear accessories. We are targeting people who wear revealing outfits, and young notorious boys who create disturbance in the streets."

Idea behind drive
He noted that the main idea behind launching the campaign is to ensure the safety and security of the emirate through rules of decency.
"We have arrested 70 young men who were caught pestering and harassing female shoppers in shopping malls. Police patrols have been deployed at various malls and residential areas in order to ensure everyone's safety. People living in Sharjah and those visiting it must respect the rules," he said.
The campaign will continue till the month of Ramadan.
The "Sharjah Decency and Public Conduct Rules" were issued by His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, on June 16, 2001.
The rules define decency as not being vulgar or shameless in appearance and speech.
According to the rules, men are not allowed to wear very short trousers in public or in commercial places like malls and public offices. Chest nudity or wearing only Ezar (the local Emirati male undergarment) is also considered as indecent dressing or behaviour.
When it comes to women, they are not allowed to wear revealing shirts or blouses that show the stomach or back. Short clothing above the knee, tight and transparent clothing that reveals the body or its shape are also not allowed.
Swimmers must wear swimwear that is acceptably decent, and swimwear is not allowed to be worn on the streets or in public places.
Unmarried couples are not allowed to be alone in public places, particularly during late hours. Men going for prayers must wear decent clothing, while abstaining from wearing pyjamas or shirts embellished with indecent pictures.

Misuse of law
Waseem Naqvi, business development manager of a PR company, fears that the decency law could be misused.
"Recently, the cases of criminals who pretend to be investigative officers and rob people have increased in the emirate. So it could be easy for such criminals to misuse the law by falsely posing as officials and questioning men who wear ornaments, eventually robbing them," he pointed out.
Rahimshad, an IT professional said, "It's fair to impose the law, but the values should not be harmful towards anybody. Rules against vulgarity and shamelessness are welcome, as are the efforts taken towards maintaining public decency."
"But views, beliefs and practices of people who come from different backgrounds, nations and cultures should also be respected. The decency campaign will help maintain values by curbing objectionable practices and behaviour such as wearing skimpy outfits," he noted.
Meanwhile, a Filipina expat recollected a humorous Filipino anecdote. "We have learnt to associate people wearing too much gold jewellery with being sick with 'Hepatitis prince'. The people stricken with the disease normally have yellow skin and yellow is akin to the colour of gold."
"The humour began in the 1970s when we observed that overseas Filipinos coming back home from the Gulf, especially from Saudi Arabia, arrived at our international airport with a good amount of gold necklace or bracelets," she laughed.
The Philippine Consulate in Dubai had earlier reminded Filipinos residing in Sharjah that Sharjah authorities are strictly implementing the eight-year-old regulation. "So, the expat Filipinos must be careful about the specifics of the law and respect local culture and values," Philippine Vice-Consul, Edwin Mendoza, said.

'Strict norms govern food imports'

The Gulf Today, 6 Aug 2009

Dubai has imported 74,851 foodstuff consignments during the first half of the year 2009, according to sources at Dubai Municipality (DM).
Iman Ali Al Bastaki, head of the food trade unit at DM, said: "A number of 133,347 varieties of food items has been imported to the emirate, in addition to 551,000 tonnes of foodstuff were examined in the municipality laboratories."
"Food consignments are not accepted if unlicensed companies practice food trading activities by importing food items from other countries. The DM also rejects shipments that violate the food label regulations approved by the competent authorities or the rules of import," she added.
According to Bastaki, the foodstuff importing company should have facilities like storerooms that complying the civic bodies rules and regulations regarding the safety of public health. The food control body at DM plays a significant role in controlling the entire foodstuffs imported in the emirate all around the year.
Bastaki pointed out that the food control bodies at the municipality play an outstanding role in controlling all foodstuffs all around the year.
"The foodstuff imported for selling in the emirate should not contain harmful colours which are banned due to their adverse effects on human health. All the food items are made available to consumers after undergoing international standard quality control specifications. Unchecked items are not traded in the country," she noted.
Bastaki pointed out, "The municipality registers all types of imported food items using an advanced global electronic system used all over the world. The system ensures safety of public health as stringent measures have been applied for permission of sales of the imported food items inside the UAE. Similar procedures are applied on food items produced locally."
"Regulations as per the latest food quality verification standards have been applied by the DM. Clauses regarding the food label and expiry date information have to be included as per the new law approved by the Gulf Standards Authority, as well as the laws outlined by the authorities concerned in the UAE," she said.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

65 eateries closed down for violations

The Gulf Today, 5 Aug 2009

At least 65 food outlets and eateries have been closed down in Dubai for violation of regulations outlined by Dubai Municipality (DM).
Meanwhile, 40 food poisoning cases from home-cooked food items were reported in the emirate during the last seven months, revealed the civic body sources.
Khalid Sharif Al Awadi, Director of the Food Control Department at DM, has revealed the closure of the erring food outlets has been under execution since the beginning of this year through to July.
The DM has received sixty food poisoning cases, out of which 40 poisoning incidents were reported due to eating foods prepared in homes. Seven food poisoning cases have been confirmed through analysis conducted at Dubai Central Lab, he said.
According to Al Awadi, the violators include restaurants, groceries, public kitchens and cafeterias that didn't comply with the requirements towards the safety regulations of public health standards.
He pointed out, "About 4672 cases were registered for the violations. Food inspectors at the DM's Food Control Department had made 14,717 visits to 7924 food selling outlets, out of 14,332 eateries, caterers, cafeterias and restaurants operational in the city."
Awareness drive
"The municipality is planning to launch a public awareness campaign on food poisoning in the wake of an alarming rate of increase in such cases, and while more restaurants are found committing violations of the rules of the civic body. The general public, workers in food selling or related organisations, shoppers in shopping malls, housewives and children will be educated about healthy eating habits and dealing with items safely," he added.
"A cartoon character has been developed with the aim of spreading a healthy food culture in the community, as well as facilitating the process of educating people about nutrition and healthy diet habits."
"Thousands of flyers carrying the "Mr Safeis" picture will also be distributed with instructions on healthy food preparation. Food ventures will also be educated on the ways to safely deal with their products, with guidance on how to safely transport and preserve foods, as well as ensuring the integrity and safety of consumers," he said.
Al-Awadi noted, "The campaign will be launched by the Holy month of Ramadan. Representatives of seventy major food organisations running in Dubai have attended a meeting held recently in this regard. Workshops will also be organised for discussing the suggestions made during the meeting."
"The campaign will be divided into four sections, with one team for educating housewives, another assigned for awareness at schools and universities, while the other groups will address the public. The campaign aims at educating all the classes of society about food safety on all sorts of items including both imported and locally produced food," he added.
Al Awadhi said that informative collaterals in different languages will be distributed at malls and restaurants, along with the necessary instructions on food safety, sanitation and hygiene. The instructions are aimed at all tiers of society and different nationalities. SMS awareness also will be circulated among thousands of random mobile numbers.

Environment, infrastructure research to get fillip

Launch to also facilitate disaster management, water resources monitoring, landscaping, desertification

The Gulf Today, 5 Aug 2009
Pix by Kamal Kassim
The UAE's first remote sensing satellite DubaiSat1 will facilitate the country in planning and executing a wide variety of programmes with potential impacts, according to the brains behind the nation's masterpiece techno advancement.
The scientists of the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST) spoke to the Dubai media on Tuesday in celebration of the successful launch of DubaiSat-1.
Adnan Mohammed Al Rais, Associate Research Engineer of DubaiSat1, said, "The current research projects of DubaiSat1 include infrastructure development for urban and rural planning, civil development and construction. Applications for land development and engineering, and survey (GIS) projects are also among the applications of DubaiSat1."
"The satellite can also be utilised effectively for environment related solutions such as detecting oil spills, monitoring land contamination, and meteorological applications like observation of fog, sand and dust storms," he added.
Al Rais noted, "DubaiSat1 will also help us to observe water quality, especially the water surrounding desalination plants, as well as monitoring water resources, land cover or land change detection for vegetation, landscaping and desertification."
According to him, DubaiSat-1 will also facilitate management of disasters such as floods and droughts, earthquakes and accidental pollution.
Salem Al Marri, Project Manager of DubaiSat-1 Space Programme, said: "The current status of the satellite is successfully operational. It orbits around the earth carrying the UAE flag in space on board the Dnepr Rocket along with other British, American and Spanish satellites. All panels are operational."
"DubaiSat-1 is ready to provide information and images. Test images will be taken soon hopefully," he added.
Al Marri said that the national UAE team initiated work directly to make sure the satellite achieved optimal position in orbit around the earth, and that it has successfully connected with the EIAST earth observation station in Dubai.
"The DubaiSat-1 team participated in testing and studies that were carried out before the launch to make sure of whether it was ready for accomplishing a successful launch. EIAST coordinated with the launching company, International Space Company (Cosmotras) in this regard," he noted.
Director General of EIAST, Ahmed Al Mansoori said: "The launch of Dubai Sat-1 was very complicated, especially in light of the possibility of not succeeding because these types of projects need full readiness of equipment associated with the launch pad."
"It is known that delays in satellite launches are frequent and linked to the final results of the tests carried out by a team of scientists and experts. We were looking forward to a seamless execution of the launch and hence the nominal delay in the launch of DubaiSat-1. Finally, the launch process of DubaiSat-1 was completed successfully," added Mansoori.
According to Mohamed Nasser Al Ghanim, EIAST Board Chairman, the UAE has established its own imprint in space research and technologies. EIAST has been working to create an internationally competitive base for human skills development and positioning the UAE as a science and technology development hub among advanced nations.
"The UAE engineers and scientists are responsible for more than a third of the project's implementation. They have played a distinguished role in carrying out the project at all levels, from planning, reviewing, manufacture and experience to the actual launch process itself. The achievement sheds light on the extent of technological and industrial progress as well as strengthening scientific and technological skills," he said.
"The successful launch of DubaiSat-1 is a dream realised," said the scientists, "It is the result of months of challenges, planning and dedication right up until the day of implementation, which was a wondrous success. But it is only the first chapter of a big successful story."
DubaiSat-1 team
Salem Al Marri (Project Manager of Space Programme), Omran Anwar Sharaf, (Team Leader of Hardware Division), Amer Mohammed Al Sayegh (Team Leader of Software Division), Mohammed Abdulrahim Al Harmi (Research Engineer of Software Division) and Abdulla Saif Harmoul (Research Engineer- Opto-Mechnical).
Suhail Buti Al Dhafri (Research Engineer- Electronics), Adnan Mohammed Al Rais (Team Leader- Ground Systems and Image Processing), Ali Rashid Al Suwaidi (Associate Research Engineer- Image Processing), Zakareya Saif AL Shamsi (Associate Research Engineer- Software Division) and Hamad Mohammed Al Jaziri (Associate Research Engineer- Electronics).
Ahmad Salem Bilal (Associate Research Engineer- Electronics), Abdulla Hamad Bu Shahab (Associate Research Engineer- Image Processing), Amaar Said Al Muhairi (Associate Research Engineer- Image Processing), Majid Ali Al Loghani (Associate Research Engineer- Ground System and Operations), Mohammed Yousif Bin Nashooq (Associate Research Engineer Ground System and Operations), Sara Yousif Amiri (Associate Research Engineer- Software Division) and Mohammed Abdularahim Wali (Associate Research Engineer- Mechanical structure).

Monday, August 3, 2009

Little genius takes big strides in cyber world

The Gulf Today, 3 Aug 2009

A cyber maestro has emerged from Dubai's expatriate community even before stepping into his teens. Meet Babar Iqbal! He has become the youngest certified IT specialist in the world, at 12.
The little Dexter from Pakistan has stunned the IT experts from across the world as he just walked over them storming towards yet another achievement.
When asked about his outstanding capacity in the field of information technology, Babar answered philosophically, "Technology is supposed to be sweet, something that you would love to have."
Babar is truly an inborn genius. The whiz kid fell in love with the world of computers at the age of five. When he was just 10, the genius cyber kid achieved a lot more than many of us could dream of accomplishing in our entire life.
There are four world records in his credit. He became the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) and the youngest Certified Internet Web Design Associate (CIWA) at the age of nine. He also surpassed his compatriot Irfa Kareem Randhawa, who made this record at the age of nine years and seven months.
When he was 10, Babar was awarded the youngest Certified Wireless Network Administration (CWNA) and he became the youngest Microsoft Solution Provider (MSP) at 11.
And recently, the little cyber genius has added a fourth crown to his elusive list of achievements, becoming the youngest Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) in NET 3.5 at the age of 12 years.
Currently, the boy is undergoing in-depth training and works with Microsoft Imagine Cup Gulf, as technical coordinator. The grade-nine student has taken the world by storm and making his nation proud, so he was honoured by the Pakistan government on his outstanding performance and achievements.
Babar shared his plans, "I wish to be the youngest PhD holder in the world and contribute significantly to the world with my skills in IT. I also want to work with the United Nations, and with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation."
"I want to contribute to the uplift of the deprived and poor people by utilising technological advancements in a positive way. Initiatives should be taken to provide guidance and support to the underprivileged and make them specialists and experts in the IT field," said Babar.
The exceptionally talented teenager commented, "Kids of my generation must be given lessons on games, animations, cartoon development and fun things, rather than mere IT studies. Slowly they will grasp serious IT lessons through more fun."
Babar was born in an overwhelming surrounding of computers and monitors, at his home in Dera Ismail Khan in Pakistan. It was not just a typical family. His father Abdul Shahid Sadiq is an engineer and he got five kids (three boys and two girls- Asif, Kashif, Babar, Saima and Asifa. All of them are Microsoft certified professionals and extraordinary in their own selves.
Asif Iqbal and Kashif Iqbal, IT professionals based in Dubai, are the mentors of Babar. They believe that their younger sibling has a noble cause to utilise his skills.
Asif opined, "To bring up more talents in the field of IT, inspiration should come from parents allowing them to excel in their field of interest. Many parents don't encourage their kids to follow their ambitions and tastes. The attitude should change."
"The competition for MCTS held at Dubai had participants from all over the world. All of them were aged between 20 and 35 years, except Babar. He just walked over them and became the youngest MCTS in the world." Aisf said.
Meanwhile, Kashif recollected, "Babar used to annoy us by intervening in our work when we sat on computer with our projects as part of IT studies. Later, we realised his interest and talent in computers, so we encouraged him."
"Now his skills range from 3D Game development with Microsoft XNA for XBox 360 and Windows, to Microsoft Visual Studio NET 2005, 2008 and Visual C#, WPF, Silverlight, Expressions Studio. Babar is excellent in Microsoft Surface Application Development (He loves MS Surface), and 3D Modeling in 3DS Studio Max 2009, as well as Animation and cartoon creation," he added.
The boy also has expertise in web designing including Adobe Flash CS4, Action script and XML, radio frequency technologies and mobile applications development especially in Adobe Studio. Windows 2000, XP, Vista and Windows 7 Beta, 802.11 regulations and standards, networks and security are also his forte.
Salaam cyber genius, keep it up and make your dreams come true! Let the world of kids get inspired by Babar in creating headlines at such tender age.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

e-waste to increase significantly in Dubai

The Gulf-Today, 1 Aug 2009

The volume of hazardous e-waste in Dubai will rise four times higher in the coming three years, compared to the previous years’ production of the electronic related garbage, according to an expert.
Dubai will produce 46 million tonnes of waste alone by 2012, a massive increase from the 12 million it produced in 2006. Only a small percentage of e-waste is recycled at present.
Ahmad Zeidan, Channel Sales Manager of networking products provider Netgear Middle East, said, “The efforts for recycling e-waste in the country are still in their infancy, so the rising clamour for environmental responsibility across the IT sector in emirate has to be responded effectively.”
“Meanwhile, the ‘Electronics Recycling and E-waste Issues’ report reveals that the volume of e-waste generated globally will hit about 73 million metric tonnes by the year 2015,” he added.
Zeidan noted, “Even though, the electronic wastes will continue to grow in the next six years, it can be expected to decline if effective and significant initiatives and practices are applied for recycling electronic goods. Even if some positive calculations are there regarding the decline of the volume of e-waste productions in the future, we have to comply with local laws and regulations wherein we operate.”
According to him, the IT and electronics sectors have to abide by the directives for the recycle, reuse, or reclamation of the products and their packaging.
Zeidan said, “Netgear offers products that promote energy conservation, including "green switches," such as unmanaged desktop gigabit switches, unmanaged rack mount gigabit switches, and smart gigabit switches. Our external power adapters for converting household electricity to low-voltage DC power for many electronic devices also have a dramatic impact on energy usage.”
“We support government initiatives to reduce information technology related waste. We are committed to use eco-friendly components for our line of products, countering the ill effects of e-waste dumping,” he added.
He claimed that over 15 per cent of their customers have adopted their "green" solutions. The firm has achieved Energy Star Level IV efficiency for its external power adapters, which helps reduce the amount of electricity its customers use.
“It is also working hand in hand with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to offer energy-efficient choices for consumers, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he added.