Friday, March 19, 2010

World's smallest snake spotted in Dubai

The Gulf Today, 19 March 2010

DUBAI Zoo's animal specialist Dr Mohammed Ali Reza Khan and his colleagues were on a day-long field trip outside the bustling city in the conservation desert area of Bab Al Shams, hen they stumbled upon an interesting wildlife discovery.
Little did they know that they had come across a specimen that would turn out to be the world's smallest snake existing in the deserts of Dubai.
The thread snakes, at a length of 40 centimetres, were found earlier only in some scattered Caribbean islands.
The trip, through the Dubai Municipality's departmental conservation area No.8, turned out to be worthy as they also spotted a couple of other rare wildlife species, roosting in the wilderness: an Asian desert warbler and the Eurasian thick-knee, better known as the Karawan.
"We had both cloudy and clear skies and temperature was also good for long distance walking. The moments were quite unexpected and a once-in-a-lifetime experience where we encountered the rare species of animals in a totally different environment," narrated Dr Khan.
"We spotted the thread snake under a stone in the civic body's special conservation area in the Bab Al Shams deserts. The non-venomous snake, which looked much more like an earthworm, had a length of 40 centimetres with just the thickness of a lady's hairpin," he explained.
The slender thread snakes, known in its scientific name, Leptotyphlopidae, are featured with smooth and shiny scales. Members of this family look much like blind snakes, and all of them have tube-shaped bodies that are about the same diameter from head to tail. The snakes have short heads with mouths that open downward instead of right on the front end of the head.
Dr Khan said, "An Asian desert warbler was the next one in our rare wildlife species discovery of the day. The bird, also one of the world's smallest, is rarest in the desert of the UAE."
"The length of the Asian desert warbler is less than 10 centimetres, having prominent yellow eyes and legs," he added. "The bird is fed only on insects, their larvae and spiders."
According to him, the bird is no doubt a friend of our plants and gardens.
Dr Khan's and colleagues' third catch of the day of Bab Al Shams desert tour was also a rare bird named Karwan.
"Karwan is the Arabic name for the Eurasian thick-knee, which used to be hunted with falcons during the last century," he noted. "But currently there are no more hunting activities in our desert areas."
"We found three Karwan birds among the bases of the scattered forests of Acacia Ehrenbergiana, a multi-stemmed small shrub spreading from the base, in the Bab Al Ahams," said Dr Khan.
He has also seen another rare bird named Ashy Drongo during a walk in Safa Park in the buzz of the city.
"The Ashy Drongo was chasing a Hoopoe bird to snatch food - a cut worm - larva of a garden beetle from it, as I entered the park through Gate No. 3 at around 3.30 in the evening and took a left turn towards the boating lake to approach the road," he said.
"In December, the bird was seen once at the Sewage Treatment Plant at Al Warsan," Dr Khan stated. "The bird had also appeared in Abu Dhabi and Ain Al Faydah recently.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

WHO approves UAE recommendations for blood transfusion safety

The Gulf Today, 15 March 2010

A set of recommendations drafted by the UAE health authorities to support blood transfusion safety procedures has been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The basic requirements for the safety of blood transfusion presented at an earlier workshop in Sharjah have been considered as a guide to all the countries of the world, according to the health officials.
The workshop conducted by the Ministry of Health (MoH) between March 31-April 2 2009 at the Centre for Blood Transfusion and Research Services in Sharjah had proposed guidelines as a global basis and measurement for supporting blood transfusion safety in the world.
Seven regional representatives from the WHO and 35 international representatives including experts and scientists in the blood transfusion realm participated in the workshop from different parts of the world.
A senior official at the MoH revealed that the headquarters of the WHO in Geneva has circulated the recommendations to health authorities across the world proposing them to adopt them as a requirement for blood transfusion safety programmes in the world.
Dr Amin Al Amiri, Executive Director for Medical Practices and Licences, and Chairman of the National Committee for Blood Transfusion, said: "The WHO circular has been dispatched to all the seven regions of the world, including developed countries, as well as countries having no advanced blood transfusion services."
"The decision-makers, including directors of blood transfusion centres in each country are urged by the WHO to take the responsibilities in supporting the blood transfusion programmes," he added.
According to Dr Amiri, the world health body has plans to develop a mechanism to exchange information between blood transfusion centres to communicate with the respective regional centres.
"The WHO also focused on the need of applying self-assessment programmes and repeated screening policies for transmitted infectious diseases through blood transfusion practices to ensure adequate safety procedures," he pointed out.
The WHO also called all the member states to benefit from the blood transfusion programmes in the developed countries, reassuring the importance of focusing on the role of the regional centres.
The Sharjah Blood Transfusion Centre supports 22 countries in the Arab World.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dubai introduces new set of 'green' building specifications

All new buildings in the emirate will have to adhere to the second phase of specifications for 'green' building, which is aimed at the efficient use of electricity, water and renewable energy resources.

The Gulf Today, 10 March 2010

A new set of guidelines and specifications has been introduced in Dubai to regulate building standards for achieving efficiency in the use of electricity, water and renewable energy resources.
Up to 40 per cent of the emirate's energy consumption could be slashed by applying the new specifications in line with the second phase of the green buildings regulations that will be issued in the next month, said a senior government official.
The outcome will also facilitate the reduction in utility bills, besides other implications of adhering to green building standards, said Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, managing director and CEO of the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA).
"The second stage of the environmental initiative is aimed at reducing electrical energy consumption, especially the energy used for cooling, lighting, water heating and other domestic use of power. The amount that can be saved from the facilities' bills alone can cover, in the long run, more than the cost of installation and maintenance," he added.
According to Al Tayer, Dubai will be the first city in the Middle East that officially applies the green buildings standards on its residential and commercial buildings, upon completion of the Green Building Project's implementation.
This is was announced by the DEWA chief on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Water, Energy Technology, and Environment Exhibition (WETEX 2010) that will run at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre until March 11.
Within the green buildings framework, the second stage of the green building regulations has been jointly developed by the DEWA and Dubai Municipality (DM), which earlier initiated the emirate's much acclaimed 'Green Buildings Project.'
"Upon issuance in April, the specifications on the usage of power and water in the green building regulations will ensure the efficient use of electricity, water and renewable energy channels by the residents of the emirate," added Al Tayer.
According to him, all new buildings in the emirate will be required to comply with the codes and regulations and incorporate them in their construction designs, in the initial stage of the second phase.
"DEWA will ensure the application of energy, water and renewable energy efficiencies, while the Municipality will supervise and regulate the application of other major standards that fall under its jurisdiction," clarified Al Tayer.
He pointed out, "Both optional and mandatory regulations are in place to make the buildings compatible with the environmental requirements. The specifications include a set of factors such as site selection, efficient use of the energy and water, quality of materials used in construction, indoor environmental quality as well as waste management system."
"The new specifications also will rationalise the consumption of water and the optimum use of renewable energy in Dubai. All these factors will contribute effectively in reducing gas emissions, improving internal environment quality, and will reflect positively on public health," he said.
"Such factors will increase the life span of the buildings, contributing in the preservation of the ecosystem that will invariably lead to increased productivity," he added.
Al Tayer noted that the implementation of the green building regulations in Dubai comes in line with the launch of Green Building Project, aimed at providing a sustainable urban development.
The standards and procedures of green buildings will ensure that Dubai will remain a healthy and environmental-friendly city, he said.
The infrastructure, land and environment committee has approved the launch of the second phase of the green building regulations.
Al Tayer said that the Dubai Government is carrying out serious steps to reduce emissions of green house gases into the atmosphere of the city, in light of the climate studies indications that the situation in the region is worse than what was expected.
"The 'green' technologies already implemented in the emirate can immensely help in the mitigation of global warming and climate change," he hoped.

Training must to renew healthcare work licenses

The Gulf Today, 11 March 2010

THE medical professionals in the UAE will have to compulsorily attend specialist training programmes and accredited continuing medical education (CME) programmes to get their working licences renewed.
All categories of medical professionals including doctors, pharmaceutical and technicians, who try to obtain or renew their professional permit to work in the country, should pass the technical and professional programmes and spend specific hours in the accredited CME sessions, according to the Ministry of Health (MoH).
The new regulatory measures will take effect by July 1, as the health ministry aims at achieving quality performance of the medical human resources in the country, said a senior MoH member.
Dr Amin Hussein Al Amiri, executive director for medical practice and licencing at the MoH, said, "Doctors, surgeons, and practitioners in all categories including dental specialists must complete 30 training hours of CME programmes."
"The pharmacists, nurses and technicians should attend respectively 20, 15 and 10 hours of training programmes. Other applied medical professionals must complete 15 hours as a basic requirement for professional development training," he added.
Al Amiri said that the MoH will also launch a dedicated electronic website for the continuing medical training programme. The doctors, pharmacists and technicians can register at the web portal to book their specialist training courses and get equipped with related information.
"A circular has been issued by the MoH to directors of all types of healthcare facilities both in public and private sectors in the country," he noted.
"The circular has already been dispatched to hospitals, primary healthcare centres, pharmaceutical institutes, agencies and establishments, medical zones, medical colleges and universities, deans of health and pharmaceutical sciences, private health centres, medical warehouses, as well as scientific offices and technicians," he explained.
"The MoH will organise the mandatory educational and training programmes for both medical and pharmaceutical professionals throughout the year, in addition to the supervision, coordination and dissemination of similar programmes being organised by the health and education bodies in the UAE," he said.
According to Al Amiri, the move comes considering an urgent need for improving the professional performance of the country's medical specialists and paramedical professionals up to the highest global standards and best practices.
"A number of procedures concerning the professional development and CME programmes will become a necessary condition for obtaining or renewing the professional licence for public and private doctors, pharmacists and technicians," he noted.
"The professional training and continuing medical training programmes for doctors, pharmacists and technicians shall be accredited by the health ministry as well as other local health authorities across the UAE," said Al Amiri.
"The annual performance reports, promotions and benefits of the medical professionals also will be considered as a condition for renewing their working permits," he added.

Dubai opens 8 public parks this week

9 March 2010, The Gulf Today

The civic body in Dubai unveils a total of eight public parks in various locations of the emirate by the end of this week.
The parks built by Dubai Municipality (DM) are opening to the public as part of the civic bodyÕs 30th edition of Plantation Week activities that is observed untill March 11.
Three pond parks have already been opened in two days, one in Al Barsha on Sunday, and two others in the Al Nahda and Al Quoz areas on Monday.
A senior DM official has said that two other parks, Al Qusais-3 Pond Park and New Garhoud Park, have been scheduled to inaugurate on Tuesday.
Ahmed AbdulKarim, Director of Public Parks and Horticulture Department at the DM, said, “Qusais Residential Park and Al Wuheida School Park will be opened on Wednesday.”
“The newly-developed public parks, with a total of 162 hectares, have been facilitated with landscaped gardens and green areas. A range of facilities for recreational activities including tennis and volleyball courts, football fields, jogging and cycling tracks, and skating areas have been provided at the parks,” he added.
According to AbdulKarim, boats can be operates at the Al Barsha pond park, which is measured at 4.8 hectares, and in the vicinity of the Mall of the Emirates area that witnesses a rapidly developing residential community. The park has got a 1.4 kilometre lengthy jogging and cycle track. Floating restaurants will be set up at the park soon.
“The Al Nahda pond park is one of the most comprehensive theme parks built in the city in the recent period, as it is the first entertainment facility in the Al Nahda area, the newest urban residential area proximate to Dubai and Sharjah border,” he added.
“The park was constructed at a cost of about Dhs22 million at a total area of about 14.6 hectares. The park is characterised with a large water area as the total area of the pond stretches to 80,000 square metres, which represents 54.4 per cent of the total area of the park,” noted AbdulKarim.
“Meanwhile, the Al Quoz Pond Park is characterised by a beautiful pond at an area of 45,000 square metres, covering 35.4 per cent of the park that spans in a total area of 127,000 square metres,” he said.
According to him, the project has been completed at a total cost of about Dhs16 million. The technical excellence of the entertainment projects have been carried out in accordance with the highest global standards in developing public parks and creating modern landscaping methods.
Hussain Naaser Lootah, Direcotr General of the Municipality, said, the parks have been launched as part of the civic body’s continuing efforts to improve the green areas of the emirate.
“The DM wants to support the residentsÕ sporting and recreational activities. The pond parks will also help reduce the water-logging issues during the rainy season,” he pointed out.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tele-medical care adds value to health sector

The Gulf Today, 7 March 2010

FROM a minor leg fracture or osteochondral defect to malignant liver cancer or a rare retinal disease, the diagnosis is depicted in seconds from the world's super-speciality facilities, but without the patient's physical presence.
The latest tele-radiology technology makes patients' medical data available anytime and anywhere in the world. Immediate online access to the patient's radiological images and reports will make the service efficient and reduce delays in results.
A specialist radiologist based in Dubai says that tele-radiology moves the patient's information and not the patient. It has positive impacts on emergency neurosurgical care, by reducing the time to correct diagnosis and treatment of the patient, who needed to be transferred, by avoiding unnecessary transfers.
In the events of medical emergencies or unexpected illnesses happening to a person while traveling by a ship that has moved far away from the land, the patient can seek medical aid of specialists from anywhere in the world through the tele-medicine network, according to Dr Nawab Shafi Ul Mulk, director of Global Hawk Telemedicine Services, Dubai.
"The radiographic image files are electronically transmitted from one location to another through the tele-radiology network. The technological advances in digital imaging, telecommunications, digital storage, and viewing technologies have made it readily available and reasonably affordable," he said.
"The tele-medical treatments can radically improve chronically ill patients, as well as people who suffer from lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiac disorders. The technology will provide them with quality life, with access to effective medical expertise round-the-clock from different parts of the world," he added.
Dr Mulk introduced the med-technology in Dubai last year, in tandem with the USA Tele-Radiology Service Providers, networked with a comprehensive team of specialists and researchers worldwide.
According to him, the tele-medical services have been widely accepted in the USA, UK and many Western countries. In the UAE also, the number of patients depending on the medical service has been increasing since its inception.
"Patients in the UAE are provided with consultative radiological services with an advanced medical imaging technology. Tele-radiology is a compulsive modern tool for the physicians to provide accurate diagnosis and treatment, as it can answer many needs within the medical community," he explained.
"Improved quality of care, combined with rapid and accurate diagnosis at comparatively lower expense, is the advantage of the modern medical tool," said Dr Mulk. "It provides direct supervision of off-site imaging studies with reduced time spending for patients, facilitating them maintain improved general health condition."
"The distance between patients and experts is abridged with the provision of consultations of specialists and sub-specialists to the needy across the globe. In contrast to analogue radiographs that can only be monitored in one location at a time, the tele-radiology materialise the mobility of digital images. So different experts based in different locations can view digital images simultaneously in the course of the treatment," he noted.
"As all healthcare providers are not facilitated with multiple full-time radiology systems and resources, the service of qualified sub-specialist radiologists from across the globe could be accessed through the tele-radiology network during regular hours, after-hours and holidays," said Dr Mulk. "The results are transferred with normal or emergency scheduling at any time, providing flexibility options to hospitals and other medical facilities."
He said that the patient radiological images are stored in encrypted temporary storage on the Global Hawk Tele-radiology servers, making them available to the networked international sub-specialist radiologists, who review and provide highest quality speciality reports.
"In the orthopedic trauma application through the tele-radiology, the consulting orthopedist at a remote location reviews the case to improve the diagnostic accuracy, and plans surgical procedures and outlays emergency departments of hospitals," he pointed out.
According to him, the system improves the comfort level of the consulting orthopedic surgeons and limits the risk of litigation for incorrect diagnosis, having the radiographic images available on hand-held devices.
"A tele-medicine box including digitalised stethoscope, microscope, BP and Oxygen metres is used to test blood sugar, blood pressure and O2 levels and the results are provided online with access to specialised treatments," he said.
"The Global Hawk Tele-medicine services has developed the tele-radiology software, and prototype products like digitaliser, video conferencing system and view stations. The solutions will cut down the overall cost of the procedures," added Dr Mulk.

61% of diabetics in the UAE's suffer from kidney disorders

The First International Diabetes Course focused on the first lines of defense against diabetes by providing health care physicians with information, expertise and skills necessary to reduce the burden of diabetes, DHA official.

The Gulf Today, 5 March 2010

THE Dubai Health Authority (DHA) focuses on strategies to tackle the highest prevalence of diabetes in the UAE, using a multidisciplinary approach by training the physicians at the primary healthcare centres.
DHA is focusing on a two-fold strategy of conducting a massive house-hold screening survey, in addition to training the doctors at primary health care centres.
About 24 per cent of the UAE nationals are suffering from diabetes, making it the second most affected country in the world after Nauru. And about 61 per cent of the UAE's diabetes patients are suffering from kidney disorders, said health officials on Thursday.
This was revealed on the occasion of announcing the accreditation of about 200 Dubai doctors trained with an international diabetes care and management course from the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE).
The First International Diabetes Course in the emirates that has been delivered outside the USA was supported by the UAE Ministry of Health (MoH) as part of the efforts of the DHA to promote the best guidance and treatment for diabetes patients.
As the highest level of diabetes prevalence becomes one of the biggest health challenges faced by the UAE, the emirate of Dubai targets to exceed the international standards in diabetic care through its primary heath centres, according to a senior DHA official.
Dr Ahmad Ibrahim Saif Kalban, CEO of the Primary Health Sector (PHC) at DHA, said that the education programme has been organised to support the knowledge and understanding of the participating, well-trained physicians who will run the diabetic mini clinic in primary health care.
"The training programme, in collaboration with AACE and GSK, aimed at achieving DHA's objectives to spread awareness of the importance of early detection and management of treatment in the UAE," he added.
Dr Abdulrazzak Ali Almadani, CEO of Dubai Hospital, said that DHA aims to provide continuous medical education for physicians in all disciplines in order to improve the development of doctors and the medical profession, in both public and private sectors.
"The course will strengthen DHA's strategic partnerships with various medical institutions at the global level, spreading best therapeutic practices for patients with diabetes and their application in various clinics and centres of the health authority," he explained.
Dr Mohammed Fargali, head of Diabetic Scientific Group in PHC, said the auditing performance indicator for the processes and outcomes of diabetic patients care will improve the results in PHC's diabetic mini clinic patient care.
"It will also reflect the great improvement and updated knowledge and skills of the health care provider," he added.
"They also focus on the training of doctors and specialists involved in caring for patients with diabetes, in light of the increasing prevalence of this disease at the national level, which ranks second globally, in terms of incidence of the disease," he said.
"The door-to-door study will gauge the average percentage of people in Dubai with diabetes as well as a targeted awareness programme that will reach out to school children to educate them about the importance of healthy eating and exercise," said Heba Al Shaar, director of Institutional Marketing and Communications and committee-member of the DHA's diabetes screening and awareness programme.
Dr Kalban said the negative impacts of behaviour, poor dietary habits and lack of exercise of the UAE residents have been attributed to highest diabetes prevalence in the country. The DHA's responsibility to address the causes and identify the latest methods and practices will only prevent the development of diabetes in future.
"The course focused on the first lines of defense against diabetes through the training of primary health care physicians, providing them with information, expertise and skills necessary to reduce the burden of diabetes," he pointed out.
According to Dr Nahed Monsef, director of health affairs department at DHA, updating the knowledge and skills of doctors will reflect positively on quality of care on key performance indicators related to diabetes management in primary health care.
"Patient care in the diabetic mini clinic exceeds international standards in some of our health centres," she added. "The provision of international standards of care to diabetic patients and the extension of the training programmes to all the PHC physicians is a key strategic move for the DHA."
Dr Osama Hamdy, the course director and assistant professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, said that the training programme has been divided into five core modules and delivered over six months.
"The programme addressed a broad spectrum of diabetes-related issues such as obesity, the prevention of type-2 diabetes, management of cardiovascular risk and hypertension in patients with diabetes as well as numerous diabetic diseases," he added.

Prohibited dish lands restaurant in soup

The Gulf Today, 5 March 2010

A restaurant in Dubai has been penalised by the civic body for preparing and offering pork and liquor without obtaining a permit from the competent authorities.
A number of other food establishments in various locations of the Emirate also have been caught for using raw materials that were well past their shelf life in the preparation of meals.
The penalties included a fine of over Dhs.30,000 and closure of the outlet for a one-month period, according to a senior official at the Dubai Municipality (DM).
Ahmed AbdulRahman Al Ali, Head of Food Inspection Section at the DM, said that a range of other food service-related violations, such as food labelling issues also, have been registered by the municipal inspectors.
"The food inspection section has conducted 4,835 field visits between Jan.1 and Feb.25. The DM has immediately imposed the penalties prescribed by the regulations of the Local Order No.11/2003," he added.
According to him, the usage of expired food items for cooking dishes at restaurants or catering outlets will invite stringent penal actions, as it poses serious threats to the public health.
Al Ali noted that the civic body has prohibited use of meat and other food items that are contrary to the provisions of Islamic law. To do so, the food service providers should comply with special regulations and obtain special permission from the official authorities of the Emirate.
"The consumers are cheated and their health comes under risk as they unknowingly eat dishes comprising ingredients that are past their shelf life. Displaying or showcasing expired foodstuff is also punishable," he added.
"The food inspection tours have been entered in the general system and fines of the DM's inspection section. The fines are implemented in collaboration with the Dubai Department of Economic Development," he said.
"However, 55 food establishments were found applying self-regulated procedures with significant improvements in their technical and hygienic standards, and reducing the rate of violations," explained Al Ali.
The methods of food inspection system in Dubai are currently being changed, foreseeing the future challenges and external factors associated with the increasing population in the Emirate.
According to the new system, all the foodstuff establishments in the Emirate are required to apply a self-identified food control system and adopt a risk management system, as per the unified food safety mechanism under the new law to be implemented by the year-end.
"More number of private laboratories will be permitted in the Emirate to activate the role of the private sector in the analysis of samples and develop a system to investigate diseases transmitted through food in collaboration with strategic partners," the Head of Municipality's Food Inspection Unit had said at the recently held Dubai International Food Safety Conference.
"A pilot study on 37 foodstuff establishments has been completed by the civic body, classifying such enterprises as D or E in order to raise their technical and health standards, curb the rate of food safety violations and stop high-risk violations," explained Al Ali.
According to him, the revolutionary shift in the food safety inspection system is inspired by unexpected increase of foodstuff establishments, bio-diversity of cultures and dietary habits.
According to him, Dubai Municipality is imparting intensive training to inspectors as part of a uniform approach in dealing with irregularities and to determine the impact on the safety of the final product.
"The new food inspection system will be equipped with innovative technologies, transparency and risk analysis and identification of risk from farm to table. It's being worked out by using the programme of inspection and fines," he noted.
"All the measures are implemented through the inputs to the system and classification of activities according to the degree of risks involved, labeled as low, medium and high categories of risk," added Al Ali.

Dubai receives record rainfall

The Gulf Today, 4 March 2010

Dubai had received a record total rainfall of about 812 cubic metres right through Tuesday's continued showers that disrupted the life in the Emirate with heavy water logging in its low-lying clusters.
During the early morning hours of Tuesday, the tidal stations of Dubai Municipality's (DM) Survey Department recorded rainfall that ranged from medium to heavy levels in part of the Emirate, according to the civic body sources.
The rate of rainfall registered in the DM's Jebel Ali station was 200 cubic metres, reaching a maximum rate of 20 cubic metres of water intensity with the minimum rate of water intensity being 4 cubic metres, said a senior DM member.
Mohammed Mashroom, Director of Survey Department of the DM, added that data from the Umm Suqeim monitoring station said the rainfall recorded over there was 204 cubic metres, with a maximum water intensity at 20 cubic metres and 4 cubic metres minimum.
"Meanwhile, the Jaddaf monitoring station in Dubai registered 216 cubic metres of rainfall during the first few hours. The highest rate of water intensity over there was 12 cubic metres, and the lowest rate was 4 cubic metres," explained Mashroom.
According to him, the average rainfall recorded in Dubai Marina station was 192 cubic metres, with a maximum rainfall intensity of 8 cubic metres and a minimum of 4 cubic metres.
Abdulmajeed Sifai, Director of the Sewage Network Department of the Municipality, said the volume of storm water drainage through the drainage network during the past 24 hours amounted at 936,000 cubic metres, which was discharged at 46 approved discharge points.
"The situation was brought under control using 39 tankers and 89 sucking pumps of the Municipality. Each tanker took 15 to 20 trips depending on the distance of discharge," he added.
According to him, the Municipality's emergency operations teams, formed by its operations and cleaning services section, were deployed at areas where water ponds took shape due to the heavy downpour.
Sifai noted, "The Municipal emergency management teams with a human resource capacity of up to 550 members, including administrative staff, engineers, technicians and labourers were put on high alert with the operation divided in to two shifts, apart from the normal schedule."
"The civic body had mobilised its complete resources to manage the emergency situation shaped due to the unsettled and irregular climatic transformation, alerted by the Meteorology Centre predictions," he said.
Hassan Makki, Director of Waste Management Department at the DM, said, "Upon receiving complaints at the DM Call Centre as well as the communications and calls from inspectors, the emergency management team members were immediately deployed in the concerend location to ease the situation," he added.
Sifai pointed out that the emergency teams also responded to reports received about the waste containers that were moved away from their original locations. The waste that had spilled out of the containers due to the strong wind were collected and deposited back into the containers until the arrival of the garbage trucks.
"The team also cleaned up the main streets of the sand accumulated on the shoulders of the streets that was causing obstruction to traffic. Work is still in force in accordance with our plan of action," he added.
(Pic Kamal Kassim)

Now Sun reigns

The Gulf Today, 4 March 2010

The UAE bade good-bye to the week of unsettled weather conditions as the sun shone on Wednesday, signalling a pleasant and warm start to the day for residents.
Met officials said the curtain has rung down on the week-long rain saga that was accompanied by strong storms. This, they added, even as the skies over the UAE are partly cloudy in general.
Chance of fog and mist is forecasted in the interior parts of the UAE on Thursday morning.
Adil Kamal, Weather Forecast In-Charge at National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS), told The Gulf Today that there is no rain predicted from Thursday onwards, but weather will be breezy, windy and cool, especially in the Northern and Eastern regions of the country.
According to him, the Shamal wind that blew on Wednesday over the country may continue moderately on Thursday afternoon. The situation in the sea also will be moderate, which is attributed to the stable weather conditions in general.
A duty forecaster at the Dubai Met Office said, "Maximum temperature of 25¡C with a minimum of 18¡C is expected on Thursday.
In Sharjah, Thursday will be sunny with clear skies at night. Weather pattern will be pretty much the same on Friday with Saturday expected to receive abundant sunshine.

Cyber socialising world abuzz with rain

Rain forced 20 per cent of people to cancel their meetings, and spend time on twittering.

The Gulf Today, 3 March 2010
Pix by Kamal Kassim

The impact of the heavy downpour in the UAE on Tuesday was also felt in the form of a rain of reactions on the Emirati zone of the cyber socialising world. Dubai-based Jordanian entrepreneur Malik Shishtawi appeared on Twitter, shocked at what happened to the UAE in just two days of the rain. ÒI can't imagine what one week of rain can do,” he said.
In response to Baher’s initiative on a Twitter debate on the inability of the public to step out during the rain, Vineetha Menon tweeted, “I didn’t want to be all wet.”
“A weather-induced laziness was driving people away from work,” stated Baher, a creative professional in a Twitter discussion on the correlation between the rain and increased Twitter activity in the UAE. “The rain definitely forced 20 per cent of people to cancel their meetings, and spend time on twittering,” he said.
Noora Nasrallah tweeted that everyone was so happy and goofy at work on Tuesday, prompting her to wonder if it's Thursday already. But Melina in Dubai replied, “The rain does that to the people in the UAE.”
The rain that heavily hit all the emirates, filled with nostalgic feelings in the mind of Indian expatriate Muneer Othayoth. For Asik Mohamed, the rain in Dubai was like something unusual feeling as happens in India.
But Sheryl D'mello, is currently in Mumbai, was missing the rain in Dubai as she came to know about it through friends and media reports. Radio presenter Joshua Anderson tweeted, “I love it when it rains in the sand pit of Dubai.
Cyber social Ahsanuddin hoped the rain would continue for a few days more. The heavy rain in Dubai, for Jean-Pierre Ziegert, was like people get two metres of snow out in Switzerland.
“Just when you thought the temperature was going up, the rain Gods surprised us,” tweeted business specialist Manesh Mahatme.
Rabia Khan adored the rain in Dubai. Sharbeen Sarash tweeted about the lovely weather in Ras Al Khaimah. He hoped, “Let it rain, let it rain.”
Ashyrawr got home from school early on Tuesday. “I welcome the rain again and beg it to unleash its wilderness, even though the streets and roads are flooded to the extreme,” she tweeted, and sensed a severe summer in the near future.
Sabah Ibrahim preferred to go for driving lessons in the fabulous rain, on slick-wet roads. Noaf Ereiqat also loved driving in the rain. The dashboard of Saleh Agha lighted up like a Christmas tree looking good in the rain.
Rima Salman on the Facebook commented that she was swimming in the rain and enjoying the traffic. And Richa Sankpal was experiencing rain in the middle of the desert, as she tweeted.
Jonathan Eric Tyrrell said in reply to Martin Baker’s tweets, “The streets in Dubai became rivers and the short walk to work brought new dangers.”
On the other hand, a corporate cyber social has posted seven photos, depicting t he rain that disturbed life in the emirates, on the Facebook in an album titled, "Dubai and Sharjah, Rain These Days”. Ahmed El-Garhy urged cyber socials to watch a video footage posted by an amateur videographer.
Reva, producer and RJ for Radio Hello 89.5 FM being aired from Fujairah, came out with a surprisingly different experience. She could find no trace of rain at all on the highway to Dubai, near the desert in Al Dhaid area.
“Roads were dry and there was no rain in this part of the UAE. There was awesome skyline on the way to Dubai after Dhaid, but skies looked threatening,” she tweeted.
“Even summer started up earlier than expected here. But unexpected showers are a boon for some people, but pain for others,” she commented. At around 3.45 pm, Babar Malik, announced, “Rain has finally stopped in Dubai. I hope reaching home would take less than two hours.”
Jay Mathur also observed that rains in Dubai seemed to have calmed down, but the roads in and out of the city were in mayhem. “Guess the deserts can’t handle a little bit of rain,” he tweeted.
Jasmine tweeted that sting was coming in Dubai due to rain, and she hoped no rain and storm on March 4.Ó In the meantime, many cyber socials re-tweeted media coverages about the rain flood hotspots.

Damage control gets going on war footing

The Gulf Today, 3 March 2010
Pix by Nisham A Manaf

The heavy rains across the country right through Monday night and the continued drizzle till Tuesday evening, caused heavy water-logging in the low-lying clusters of the Emirate of Dubai.
The rainwater, mixed with drainage, accumulated in the industrial areas of the Emirate, forcing the civic body's emergency teams to attend to the affected areas round-the-clock. Worst hit were the low-lying locations in the Emirate.
A senior official of Dubai Municipality (DM) told The Gulf Today that the civic body activated its emergency rain response system, deploying several teams to control the repercussions of the downpour.
Abdul Majid Al Shifai, Director of Irrigation and Drainage Network Department, said employees from the operations and cleaning services section of the Municipality's waste management department pumped out water that had accumulated in Al Quos, Al Qusiais, Jebal Ali and Al Aweer areas.
"Trying to ease the burden on public life in the affected areas, the Municipality has installed its full set of equipments and human resources. About 39 tankers were arranged to collect water in Al Quos area only. Total 89 pumps have been set up, and around 300 employees were involved in the emergency operations until evening," he explained.
Meanwhile, the seashore-proximate Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim areas have been comparatively less affected by the flooding, contrary to earlier reports.
Saidul Abid, a Dubai-based specialist in waste management operations, said that most of the areas from Al Qusais towards the Jebel Ali Industrial Zone, witnessed heavy water-logging that spread to the Emirates Road.
"The water-logging occurred in most of the locations due to overflowing of drainage systems. As for the stink that emanated from the drains, it caused further discomfort to the residents," he added.
Hassan Mohammed Makki, Director of the DM's Waste Management Department had earlier said that the Municipality assigned an exclusive team for cleaning up the storm water drainage system.
"The civic body's emergency team removed remnants of trees uprooted due to rain and storm that also caused the municipal waste containers to move away from the places they were positioned," said Shifai.
"Work is still in force in accordance with the plan of action set for team members," he added.

Contingency plan to address climatic impacts

The Gulf Today, 2 March 2010

In anticipation of the unexpected and turbulent climatic conditions experienced in Dubai on Sunday night, the civic body has formulated a contingency plan to address the impact of the heavy downpour and storms.
The operations and cleaning services section of the municipality's waste management department has fixed water clogging issues on roads and streets in various parts of the emirate, by opening at least 688 drainage holes.
The teams being deployed to manage the consequences of the rain as part of the emergency rain response system will continue operations in the next couple of days cover all areas of the emirate, said a senior official at Dubai Municipality (DM).
Abdul Latif Ali Al Jallaf, Head of Operations with Irrigation Maintenance Network Section of the DM, said, “The emergency management teams included 50 cleaning workers, 10 supervisors and 10 vehicles stormed into action to remove all the waste accumulated around it.”
“The emergency team also responded to 77 complaints of residents to remove rainwater mixed with drainage gathering on public places harming the normal life. The team removed remnants of trees uprooted due to severe windstorm blew on Sunday evening in 35 locations of the emirate,” he added.
According to him, the rainwater and storm also caused the civic waste containers moving away from the places they were set up.
”A total of 42 waste containers were fixed by the emergency team, which collected the debris flown out of the containers as a result of the strong wind, and deposited back to the containers until the arrival of trucks for transporting waste,” explained Al Jallaf.
”The team also cleaned up the main streets of the sand accumulated on the shoulders of the streets that were causing obstruction to traffic. Work is still in force in accordance with the plan of action set for team members,” he said.

Call for unified strategy to tackle tuberculosis in UAE

The Gulf Today, 2 March 2010

THE UAE should implement unified methods to tackle prevalence of tuberculosis in the country, developing a collective TB registry with the involvement of the private health sector, urged health experts.
They called for developing an integrated advocacy, communication and social mobilisation strategy focusing on combating the social stigma, which often surrounds patients affected with TB and their family.
Formation of the unified policies and national TB registry on tuberculosis will ensure availability of data and transparency of the information at a national level, said the experts who participated in a workshop organised by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
The experts from the Ministry of Health (MoH), Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD), SEHA, Dubai Municipality, Dubai Police and representatives from the private healthcare discussed ways to address the impact of tuberculosis and prevent new cases of the disease in the country.
The workshop urged to give permission to the private healthcare sector to treat TB cases under strict rules and regulations, extending their role to contribute to the management of TB cases in the country.
Essa Kazim, CEO of the health policy and strategy sector at the DHA, said that different authorities and private healthcare sector should work together to effectively manage and treat the disease and prevent further cases of TB in the country.
Representatives from the health authorities should be appointed to oversee the follow-up of TB patients and to maintain an updated record and registry, she added.
"Pulmonary tuberculosis has re-emerged as a priority public health problem globally. The healthcare sector across the world is facing the new challenges posed by this disease such as is the emergence of multi-drug resistant and the correlation of TB to the HIV epidemic," Kazim referred to the recent WHO report on the increasing incidence of tuberculosis globally.
According to him, the DHA's aim is to update and support the existing health promoting policies and laws regarding the TB control, which can be achieved through effective coordination with different stakeholders in the country.
Dr Ali Al Marzooqi, director of primary healthcare at the DHA reinforced the need to work with all concerned authorities to tackle the health issue.
"The statistics confirm that there is an increasing incidence of TB, especially since a significant number of cases belong to high TB prevalent countries," he added.
"The existing regulations on tuberculosis treatment should be reviewed and amended, focusing the priority issue of developing a unified health management and information system," he pointed out.
Dr Marzooqi said that operational processes should also be standardised to manage and treat the disease and strengthen the national programme for pulmonary tuberculosis in the UAE, by forming a national TB committee consisting of members from different health authorities.
The workshop also mentioned the need to look at the method adopted by the GCC States, which have pre-approved health centres in countries that have a high prevalence of TB.
"Expatriates who travel to the GCC from these countries for employment need to get a clearance from the pre-approved medical fitness centres, stating that they are free of any communicable diseases such as TB and HIV," noted Dr Marzouki.
"This takes place before the expatriate visits the country and thus helps reduce the number of people who enter the country with the TB. In the UAE, the medical fitness test is not conducted in the home country and is done after the individual is in the UAE," he explained.
The workshop stressed on the importance of preventive methods and the need for unified action to address this healthcare concern effectively.

Unified system to be in place to investigate food poisoning cases

The Gulf Today, 1 March 2010

A unified system will be implemented to investigate food poisoning cases in Dubai as part of the strategic plans of the civic body to achieve maximum food safety standards in the emirate.
Khalid Sharif Al Awadi, Director of Food Control Department at Dubai Municipality (DM), said a preparatory committee will be established with the participation of all the concerned bodies.
“Initially, the committee will be under the supervision of the Food Safety Committee in the Ministry of Environment (MOEW),” he added.
According to him, the significant links between food and public health have been highlighted across the world, along with calls to set up an international framework to ensure the safety of food items and prevent emergence of food poisoning incidents.
“The municipality is working on achieving the recommendations of the recently held Dubai International Food Safety Conference. The recommendations included activating the role of consumers to enable them maintain food safety standards,” pointed out Al Awadhi.
”The category of small consumers will be particularly focused and educated through scientific programmes according to their age groups, and will be given lessons on joint responsibility for food safety,” he said.
According to Al Awadhi, food inspection staff at the federal level will be given training and knowledge.
”The implementation will be supported by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation, speeding up the process of preparing new specifications and upgrading old measures. The methods will reduce the procedures for the approval of the adoption of food standards,” he said.
He explained that the new measures will increase the effectiveness of existing government food laboratories through the provision of qualified scientific cadres. Specialised analytical equipment will be provided to keep pace with developments in the international specifications and to ensure readiness for analysis of emergency,” he explained.
Al Awadhi noted that the recommendations called for coordination with the various food control bodies in the countries of origin to activate the certification by the approved bodies of these countries to give more confidence in the imported products.
"The conference urged to ease the inspection process of the food control bodies in the country and adopt a uniform system of classification and registration of food and food cards in the country so as to prevent duplication and to tighten control on the food imported through the border,” he added.

Heart diseases emerge as major killer

Even though the UAE has seen an improvement in diagnosis, evaluation, treatment of cardiovascular diseases, still more heart-related campaigns are needed, says Dr Abdullah Shehab

The Gulf Today, 28 Feb 2010

Local medical experts have called for focusing on the prevention rather than treatment of cardiovascular diseases that have emerged as the no.1 killer in the UAE, attaining alarming proportions.
A range of cardiovascular diseases have contributed to 24 per cent of all deaths in Abu Dhabi in the year 2008, according to figures released by the Abu Dhabi Health Authority (HAAD).
Dr Abdullah Shehab, Director of Continuing Medical Education at the Emirates Society of Cardiology, said that only around 10 per cent of the UAE residents are aware of heart issues and follow a healthy lifestyle.
“About 50 per cent residents are aware of their heart conditions, but fail to make any lifestyle changes, while 40 per cent are ignorant of their conditions and do not take any remedial measures,” he explained.
Speaking at a ceremony to announce a new drug for the prevention of heart attacks and ailments in the UAE, Dr Shehab pointed out, “As nearly 40 per cent of the residents are unaware of their heart ailments, and more intensive heart-related campaigns should be organised in order to raise awareness and adopt preventive steps, including medication.”
“Even though the UAE has seen an improvement in diagnosis, evaluation, treatment and the medical management of cardiovascular diseases, still more heart-related campaigns are needed,” he said.
“The cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death in the UAE. By 2015, almost 20 million people in the world will die from cardiovascular ailments, mainly from heart disease and stroke,” he alarmed.
The cardiovascular expert said Rosuvastatin, a lipid lowering drug, reduces cholesterol levels and helps shift the focus of cardiovascular healthcare to prevention rather than treatment of the disease.
“Based on clinical study results in prevention of heart attacks and ailments in the UAE, the drug has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” he said.
"A new phase of cardiologic prevention has begun with this approval. Usually patients are treated after the discovery that they have a cardiological disorder. But this medicine can tackle the early signs of the diseases,” he pointed out.
"Clinical trials have proved that the drug reduces the risk of stroke and heart attack,” noted Dr Shehab.
According to him, previously such patients were not eligible for such treatment.
Dr Azan Binbrek from the Cardiology Department of Rashid Hospital in Dubai said, “An active role should be played in the community to promote health awareness about cardiovascular diseases and their prevention. Heart patients should be asked to lose weight, do regular exercises and stop smoking.”
“The UAE still has a long way to go in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. It is a joint responsibility, the government, media and schools have a role to play to promote healthy lifestyle among kids and keep junk food out of their reach and train them to do  exercises as part of their daily lives,” he opined.
Speaking about the factors responsible for cardiovascular diseases Dr Binbrek said the UAE is the second in the world in terms of diabetes, around 25 per cent of people in the UAE are diabetic.
“In the country, 25 per cent have high blood pressure and 20 to 25 per cent have high cholesterol level. And smoking is dramatically increasing amongst teenagers in the age group of 15 to 18 years,” he explained.
The emirates have a very high rate of heart attacks, strokes and heart failure due to the huge lifestyle changes. The residents must try to prevent these diseases, advised Dr Binbrek.
According to Dr Shehab, the root causes of high prevalence of cardiovascular diseases are the risks factors such as diabetes, smoking, hypertension, lack of exercise and high cholesterol.