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Friday, May 27, 2011

Don’t ‘dump’ documents

By PMA RASHEED 
24 May 2011, The Gulf Today

SHARJAH: Improper document disposal increases incidents of confidential data and identity theft, pointed out Sharjah’s semi-government environment and waste management authority Bee’ah.

Several types of confidential information are highly vulnerable to abuse by criminals if simply thrown into dustbins, a senior Beea’h official warned on Monday.
Walid Zabaneh, vice president of Business Development and Strategy at Bee’ah, told The Gulf Today that a number of security breaches can be traced back to mishandled, lost or stolen documents.
“UAE authorities are stepping up measures to tackle circumstances leading to information theft including dumpster diving, cheque scams and false identity cases,” added Khalid Al Huraimel, CEO, Bee’ah.
“In some cases, information theft may potentially jeopardise national security and turn out as a contributor to massive financial losses for companies and individuals.”
He advised that all kinds of debris, especially confidential documents and electronic information, should be discarded responsibly and, and if possible in an environmentally friendly way.
The Bee’ah recently linked up with the Sharjah Immigration Department to crack down on waste scavengers in the Emirate in a joint initiative to curb issues related to insecurity of personal information.
“Information including financial data, figures, company records, facts, private statistics and information about clients or projects have to be protectively disposed after use, or you will have to face severe consequences,” pointed out Zabaneh.
“However, no specific local figures are available for public on the increase in identity theft or breach of information security laws, linked to the unsafe disposal of documents.”
Speaking about Bee’ah’s confidential document destruction and recycling project aimed at protecting businesses, Zabaneh stated that determining the link between data breaches and identity theft is challenging, primarily because identity theft victims often do not know how their personal information was obtained.
“In several cases the reason for the data breach and eventual identity theft can be the stack of potentially confidential data disposed with regular trash by the office staff or the tiny credit card receipt, thrown casually in the trash after a shopping trip,” he elaborated.
“The implications of improper destruction of crucial data are the cause of huge losses to businesses and individuals alike,” Zabaneh added.
Introducing its confidential document destruction and recycling service as a safe, secure and environmentally responsible procedure, Bee’ah urges businesses in the UAE to employ properly document disposal procedures to reduce incidents of data theft and security breach.
Zabaneh said, “Waste-scavengers intentionally explore sites, where waste of their target companies are being dumped, in hopes of uncovering important information and selling them to wrong people.”
According to him, business entities should implement a ‘shred-all’ policy for all unwanted documents, on a regular basis, to avoid risks. “Special locked consoles have to be provided to deposit confidential documents, instead of recycling bins.”
“Bee’ah also has a mobile shredding unit with trained operatives to destroy documents on-site. All shredded material is then recycled and on completion a certificate is issued confirming the secure destruction and recycling of documents,” Zabaneh
“Since the launch of the service in 2009, Bee’ah has securely managed to destroy and recycle over 1,000 tonnes of paper which is equivalent to saving 17,000 trees,” he concluded.

15 medical facilities shut, 15 doctors suspended in 2010 for violations

By PMA RASHEED 
24 May 2011, The Gulf Today

Dubai: About 15 medical establishments have been shut down in the UAE in 2010 by the Ministry of Health (MoH) as these facilities violated the regulations and bylaws, revealed a senior health official on Monday.
“Four of the medical establishments were closed permanently, while 11 of them face temporary closure,” said Dr Amin Al Amiri, assistant undersecretary for Medical Practices and Licensing and head of the Medical Licensing Committee at the MoH.
“About 15 doctors were suspended from practice due to cases of medical malpractice last year, and another seven doctors have been issued warning. Meanwhile, eight doctors were temporarily suspended from practice as a precautionary measure for medical negligence or malpractice based on complaints lodged by patients,” he elaborated.
“The ministry blacklisted seven other doctors due to their severe violations of the professional ethics or scientific and technical standards. Warnings were issued against 11 medical establishments after inspections carried out by officials at the medical licensing department,” he added.
According to Dr Amiri, a penalty in the form of a written warning has been issued against another medical establishment.
“The violating doctors were suspended either because of their medical negligence or for disbursing medical sick leaves for patients without checking their right to receive such leaves,” he pointed out.
The [penalties] issued to the medical facilities were based on inspections and decision of the medical licensing committee as they were proved to be violating the set of standards or regulations, said Dr Salem Al Darmaki, acting undersecretary of the MoH.
“A total of 1,140 medical facilities are operating under the supervision of the heath ministry, while about 2,305 doctors have obtained license from the federal authority to practice medical profession in the Emirates,” he added.
Statistics of the MoH’s medical licensing department indicates the significant increase in the number of medical establishments and doctors in 2010, and there is an increasing traffic for more registrations for medical practice and healthcare sector operation.
“The medical licensing department regularly follows up about 1,140 medical establishments and doctors working there to keep ensuring their adherence to the best international health standards, and the country’s regulations,” he added.
“About 163 new establishments have been licensed in 2010, while 70 facilities have been approved since the beginning of the current year,” noted Al Darmaki.
“The approved medical establishments in the private sector include 435 medical centres, 275 rehabilitation centres, 104 public clinics, 94 school health clinics, 92 specialised clinics, 73 public dental clinics, 25 hospitals, 25 diagnosis centres and 19 specialised dental clinics,” he elaborated.
Dr Al Amiri said that about 2,305 doctors have received MoH licenses, out of which 354 have been given in 2010 and 151 since the beginning of 2011.
“About 781 technicians were also licensed by the MoH last year, while the number of licensed technicians in 2011 until the date is 359. There are a total of 2,621 technicians that have been provided licences by the health ministry,” he added.

Sri Lanka to reduce supply of housemaids to Gulf


By PMA RASHEED
The Gulf Today, 16 May 2011

Dubai: The Sri Lanka authorities are currently outlining strategies to slowly reduce the number of housemaids dispatched from the island to work in the UAE and other Gulf countries, reveals a top government representative visiting the Emirates to explore opportunities in skilled and semi-skilled Lankan labour supply.
Dilan Perera, Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare of Sri Lanka, said that the authorities are unofficially discouraging the citizens to take up housemaid jobs abroad, as the country gradually trains the people for skilled and dignified professional opportunities.
“The title and job description of the domestic workers also have to be upgraded from ‘housemaid’ to ‘housekeeper’ in accordance with training them scientifically. There’s also a long-term term plan for demanding compulsory minimum wage system for the migrant Lankan workforce abroad,” the minister indicated.
“Supplying domestic workers to the foreign job market by ensuring their security and rights as well as welfare and rehabilitation while they return to the island has been raising constant issues which are unresolved often,” Perera pointed out.
Speaking on the sidelines of Sri Lanka Employment Promotion Seminar staged in Dubai on Sunday, the minister noted that Sri Lanka wants to offer more skilled and quality manpower to the UAE and other foreign job markets.
“An innovative mechanism is currently being developed in Sri Lanka to implement job-specific, country-specific and company-specific training programmes for the citizens, who seek foreign opportunities,” he said.
“We are looking at possibilities of backward integration, in building education institutions, in collaboration with Dubai entrepreneurs by offering opportunities to invest in those institutions, which are devoted to producing certified semi-skilled and skilled personnel for the entire specialised Middle East job market,” elaborated Perera.
According to him, Sri Lanka is next to China in the Asian Human Resources Index. It has been building quality human resources and supplying to the other parts of the world for years.
“We are implementing resolving the problems of our migrant manpower and improve their welfare system, by introducing education scholarship to the children of Gulf returnees. Work-related complaints such as employee or agent harassment, physical abuse, health challenges and issues of absconding maids have significantly come down at the Lankan missions in the UAE.”
“Meanwhile, Lankan workers’ complaints are 10 times higher in other Gulf countries. There are only 35 to 40 complaints are registered on an average in the UAE, while some 30 to 40 cases are recorded regarding the absconding housemaids,” Perera said.
Speaking at the seminar, Sarath Wijesinghe, Ambassador of Sri Lanka in the UAE, announced an education project for the working Sri Lankans in the UAE.
“The UAE’s Sri Lankan employees with a minimum of managerial experience are offered a global standard two-year long management education programme through a cost-effective distance learning scheme from Open University of Sri Lanka, under the direct supervision of the mission,” he said.
“The two study centres will be opened one each in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where more professional courses will be introduced later in affiliation with the Open University of UK,” he added.
MM Abdul Raheem, Consul General of Sri Lanka in Dubai and Northern Emirates, said, “Sri Lanka has a literacy rate of 95 per cent, one of the highest in the South Asia. The workforce is easily trainable and could cater to the global demand.”
"The UAE is home to about 2,50,000 migrant Sri Lankan workers, out of which 190,000 expatriates are employed in Dubai and Northern Emirates. A significant majority of them are engaged in domestic helpers in the UAE,” he added.
“The number of Sri Lankan skilled labourers already employed in various sectors in the UAE is clear evidence that Sri Lanka could supply to the need of the international standards,” noted Raheem.

Municipality conducts health tests on 71,609 animals this year

BY PMA RASHEED
13 May 2011, The Gulf Today 


A record number of animal disease prevention procedures have been conducted in Dubai, with 71,609 animals at various farmhouses and municipal veterinary clinics received treatment and vaccination during the first quarter of the current year.
The animal health protective measures have been carried out aimed at ensuring higher level of safety of livestock protecting them from a range of serious seasonal risks eventually derailing the food security in the emirate, revealed Dubai Municipality (DM).
The Municipality has staged a range of programmes and initiatives to ensure that the animal handlers or traders are adhering to the civic regulations and requirements on animal sheltering.
The civic authority also intensified its inspection procedures on cattle feed shipments and veterinary supplies imported through the emirate's ports during this period, aimed at reducing the number of common animal diseases.
Meanwhile, the number of animal feed shipments imported to the emirate has increased this year compared to the first quarter of the last year, as more companies entered into the market in the wake of the increasing demands for animal feed, a spokesperson of the DM said.
According to him, there has been a significant decrease in the number of animal care law violations compared to the first quarter of last year. "The civic veterinary laboratories conducted about 7,477 tests. Also, about 877 random inspections were carried out in different areas of the emirate."
"Surveys on mycotoxins in cow milk were carried out, taking samples from farms for bacterial tests. The Municipality also monitored different tools used for dairy operations to ensure safety and protect public health," the DM official pointed out.
He elaborated that approximately 1919 cases of stray animals like cats and dogs were reported during this period. "About 42,820 animals were examined before slaughtering at Dubai Abattoirs, while a number of animals were rejected prior to the slaughtering as they were unfit for human consumption."
A significant increase has been recorded in the awareness of workers in livestock farms and dairy sites, the DM spokesperson concluded.
(Pic: Supplied)

‘Immediate action on emergency medicine requirement’


By PMA RASHEED 
The Gulf Today, 10 May 2011

Dubai: All medical districts in the UAE will be provided with effective mechanism to solve problems of insufficient medicines and other issues on shortage of resources, assures health minister Dr Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim.
Speaking at a meeting with directors of medical districts on Monday, he said that the entire residents in the country will be able to avail the best healthcare services and enjoy global standard medical practices in various specialisations.
“More programmes are in pipeline to encourage Emiratis to work in the healthcare sector, with more continuous medical education (CME) and international training sessions for nursing and midwifery professionals to meet the serious shortage of nationals in these health professions. The MoH recently recruited 35 UAE national nurses in various hospitals,” he explained.
“The entire health facilities in the seven Emirates will be provided with sufficient quantity of medicines, medical and lab equipment. Each medical district has to submit a specific plan for its actual requirement of medicines and equipment, in order to ensure the availability of medicines in these stores,” he added.
“The mechanism will specify the quantities of available medicines in the MoH warehouses as well as at hospitals and health centres, to guarantee availability of medicines, especially for chronic diseases,” elaborated Dr Hassan.
According to him, all practices related to import, purchase and storage of medicines will be regulated. “The new mechanism will monitor the procurement, and disburse of the drugs through continuous supervision measures of the medical stores, pharmacies upon evaluating the medicine purchase orders.”
“Immediate actions will be taken on purchase orders, to meet emergency requirement of medicines. The central stores will send official circulars to the stores, pharmacies and centres in the medical districts to specify a certain timeline for receiving and ensuring the safety and non-manipulation of the medicines,” the minister concluded.

Dubai clinics require special license for immunisation

By PMA RASHEED 
The Gulf Today, 9 May 2011

DUBAI: Private clinics providing vaccination services in Dubai will now have to obtain a new licence as Vaccine Qualified Clinics (VQCs) from Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
The authority on Sunday has announced its new immunisation policy with comprehensive guidelines to standardise immunisation services at the emirate’s hospitals and clinics, which will be connected to a unified immunisation reporting and recording mechanism.
According to the policy, all healthcare facilities in the emirate will require to fulfill specific requirements if they want to continue providing childhood immunisation services.
A senior health official indicated that parents could now make sure that their children are receiving potent and safe vaccines through the VQCs system. The DHA’s health regulation department will monitor functions at the VQC licensed centres to ensure safe practice and compliance to the new system.
Qadhi Saeed Al Murooshid, director general of the DHA, said that it’s all about assuring global standards of safety and efficiency and better access for Dubai residents to various immunisation services, with special emphasis on child immunisation programmes.
“Once the new policy is in practice and both the private and the government sectors have been put into the unified system, Dubai can benchmark itself internationally in terms of immunisation services,” he added.
“The immunisation services presently provided by private and government health facilities in Dubai, are inadequately coordinated, even though vaccinations protect the community from several life-threatening diseases,” pointed out Al Murooshid.
All immunisation services in Dubai will be streamlined with the implementation of the policy to improve quality of the services, said Laila Al Jassmi, CEO of Health Policy and Strategy Department at the DHA.
“The unified immunisation policy will cover all hospitals and health clinics in the private, government and free zone segments of the emirate. The authority will monitor the process of administering vaccines at all the licensed facilities,” she added.
Dr Ali Ali Marzooqi, Director of Public Health and Safety at the DHA, said that the system will provide technical guidance to healthcare providers to ensure they follow best practices, in terms of administering and storing vaccines.
“However, meeting the new licence criteria will not be a difficult task for the healthcare facilities, as a majority of them are already fulfilling their licensing conditions to provide these services,” he noted.

'Cardiac disease No.1 killer of women in the world'

By PMA RASHEED The Gulf Today, 6 May 2011

Dubai: A quarter of all deaths in the UAE are caused by cardiovascular diseases (CVD), while globally 35 per cent of women are living with various cardiac disorders, according to a specialist cardiologist in Dubai.
Cardiovascular disease is still considered to be a man's disease, but it causes the death of almost the same number of women too.
Dr Nooshin Bazargani, Specialist Cardiologist at Dubai Hospital and Head of Emirates Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Group (ECDPG), revealed that out of the 17.5 million deaths from cardiovascular disease each year globally, over 8.6 million are women.
"It's more than the total number of women, who die from all cancers, tuberculosis, HIV-AIDS and malaria combined. The CVD is the number one killer of women in the world," she added.
Dr Bazargani was speaking at the second edition of "Go Red for Women" campaign, a global initiative to raise awareness about the risk of CVD among women, organised on Thursday at Deira City Centre in tandem with Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
According to her, most of these cardiovascular deaths could be avoided through awareness on effective change in life. "Their attitude should be modified towards adopting preventive measures on the major risks such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol level, unhealthy eating habits, physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyle."
Dr Fahad Omar Ahmed S Baslaib, Head of Cardiology at Rashid Hospital and President of Emirates Cardiac Society, indicated that the risk factors for women are largely similar to men, including family history of the CVD, smoking, stress and other major reasons.
"However, some factors play a greater role in women than men. About 22 per cent of the UAE population dies due to cardiac problems. Half of them are women, who are either under-diagnosed or under-treated," he pointed out.
Dr Laila Al Jassmi, CEO of Health Policy and Strategy Sector at the DHA , said that lifestyle diseases can be prevented by following a balanced diet and healthy exercise patterns. "The number of women with the CVD highlights the magnitude of this problem."
Dr Arif Abdullatif Al Mulla, Head of Cardiology at Dubai Hospital, said: "Diabetic women suffer from the risk of chronic heart disease eight times more than non-diabetic women. In diabetic men, the risk is of cardiac disorders is only three times more than non-diabetic men."
"In women, the combination of oral contraception and consumption of up to 15 cigarettes per day is associated with a three to five fold increase in coronary risk, for women who smoke more than 15 cigarettes per day, the risk increases by twenty fold," he added.
"The post-menopausal state uniquely augments the risks of the CVD for women. Depression also increases the risk of the heart attack in women at 70 per cent. As twice as many women as men are depressed, this becomes a major risk factor for the sex," elaborated Dr Al Mulla.
The Gulf Race 1 gender analysis study, which was conducted in 2009 across six Gulf States to compare men and women who are admitted to the hospital with heart attacks, showed that cardiac diseases among locals and expatriates in these countries are equal. Whereas, 80 per cent of heart attack cases among women were of citizens and  expatriate women- 20 per cent.
Dr Bazargani noted the study had indicated that the outcome of the heart attack is more eventful in women than in men.
"This means women with heart attacks have more complications as compared to male patients. Women are more at higher risks of bleeding, heart failure (weakness of the muscle of the heart) and are more at a risk of death," she concluded.

‘Disease hasn’t spoilt my life’

By PMA RASHEED
The Gulf Today, 27 May 2011

DUBAI: The future of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients has become more promising, as right attitude and proper medication can help in leading an active and happy life, said MS sufferers and specialists in the country.
Patient networking forums and care groups have boosted support for patients with the disease in the Emirates by educating them and helping them avail best treatment options.
In celebration of World MS Day, two support groups in Dubai organised such awareness initiatives that were focused on enhancing possibilities for MS patients.
MS is one of the world’s most common and complex diseases, which disables nerves in the brain and spinal cord.
The auto-immune disease affects the central nervous system by impairing myelin, the protective sheath that covers nerve fibers. When the myelin gets damaged, the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord fail to communicate with each other, resulting in derailing the connection between the brain’s messaging system and other parts of the body.
On Thursday, more than 30 MS sufferers congregated, along with friends and family members, at Wafi City Mall in Dubai to observe World MS Day. The programme was organised by the UAE MS Platform, bringing together MS sufferers in the country.
(During the event), the UAE MS Platform launched an interactive online forum, titled UniteMS.net, aimed at encouraging MS patients to register with this website and share their difficulties to seek instructions to conquer the complications. The UniteMS.net forum will help UAE patients get connected with the global platform of MS patients, said the organisers.
Meanwhile, earlier in the week, ‘Taking life to new heights’ was the theme raised by the UAE MS Support Group, which organised an indoor skydiving programme for its five members at iFly in Mirdif City Centre.
The patients took part in the skydiving experience, flying high in the art wind tunnel, to show that chronic disease sufferers can still live life to the fullest if they adopt a positive attitude and their disease is controlled with the correct medications.
MS affects patients’ behaviour from walking and talking to eating and even feeling pain and other sensations. Patients suffer from a range of difficulties including motor impairment, balance problems, visual, sensory and cognitive (memory) issues.
Dr DM Kayed, specialist neurologist at Open MRI for Spine Surgery Centre in Dubai, explained that MS sufferers can experience a variety of symptoms as the condition develops.
“Such patients can experience attacks that may be present with blurred vision, sensory disturbance affecting the face body or limbs, lack of coordination and imbalance, weakness as well as memory and concentration difficulties,” he added.
“Injection therapy for MS reduces the frequency of attacks and thus may slow disease progression and help control symptoms. New oral treatments have recently become available; however, clinical experience with these agents remains limited,” pointed out Dr Kayed.
UAE MS support group member Dr Budoor Al Shehhi, pointed out, that these patients, however, can continue to take life to new heights despite their illness.
“The patients’ celebration [at iFly] was about having the right attitude and the right treatment that will allow them better manage their condition gaining the capability to work, play, and even fly,” she added.
Meanwhile, Mohamed Morsi, area therapeutic manager at Merck Serono Middle East, organiser of the MS Platform meet at Wafi Mall, said the objectives of the forum is to identify the patients in the UAE in order to help them enjoy an active and normal life, despite suffering from the chronic disease.
Sultan Al Nuaimi, a MS sufferer and active member of UAE MS Platform, said, “The UniteMS.net is a social network on which MS patients across the world log in and interact with fellow patients, doctors, specialists, researchers and support groups.”
“The Middle East MS Platform was launched in the UAE last year to streamline care activities and research programs throughout the region. The forum, an affiliation of several independent MS organisations, key opinion leaders, healthcare groups and commercial corporations, will move us patients closer to a world free of MS,” he added.
Sultan, aged 23 years, has been suffering from MS symptoms like poor vision, tremors and fatigue for the past three years.
“MS patients can make their life shining and vibrant with proper medication and changes in lifestyle, along with indulging in entertainment and social activities. I have never felt that the disease is spoiling my life,” he elaborated confidently, discussing his survival saga.
Another member of the UAE MS Platform Sahar Rahma agreed, saying that the secrets of survival for her, too, are a positive approach towards life, proper course of medication and a healthy lifestyle.
“I gained more strength and confidence by communicating with other patients, and joined on the networking platform to share our worries as well as joyous moments. Since I started the medication, the difficulties of the MS in my body have significantly reduced,” she added.
Rami, member of the MS Support group who took part in the iFly experience, was diagnosed with MS last year at the age of 32; however, he has not let his illness prevent him from living a normal life, even continuing to travel across the region for work.  
“Initially when I was diagnosed I was very much in denial. I would tell myself that even though I was diagnosed with MS it would not affect my life at all and nothing would happen to me,” he added.
Global statistics show that MS affects approximately 2.5 million people worldwide. Around 25 to 50 people per 100,000 in Arabic populations and about 100 per 100,000 in Northern Europeans also suffer from the disease. MS affects women more than men, and often the symptoms appear between the ages of 20 and 40.
(Pix: Supplied) 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

New by-laws for expat medical tests on anvil

BY PMA RASHEED
4 May 2011, The Gulf Today

Dubai: About 21 per cent of the total Asian job-seekers who underwent medical examinations before obtaining their UAE residence visa in 2009 had tuberculosis, the Ministry of Health (MoH) revealed on Tuesday.
This serious situation prompted the UAE authorities to think about implementing strong regulations in regard to the medical examination procedures for foreign workforce entering the country, says a senior health official.
Dr Mahmoud Fikri, Assistant Undersecretary for Health Policies at the MoH, indicated that the ministry, in the process of implementing the recent decision of Ministerial Service Council, is currently preparing new by-laws for the residency medical examination of expatriates who should get their medical check-ups done in their countries of origin before arrival in the UAE.
“The new regulation on getting medical fitness certificate for all new expatriates aims to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and reduce the financial burden of managing expatriates affected by contagious diseases,” he added.
“The current mechanism for expatriate medical tests in the UAE has been efficient for more than 30 years to manage low rates of infectious diseases in the country, as the system insists on expats repeating the medical tests at the time of every residency visa renewal,” Dr Fikri noted.
“But it was noticed later that the rate of infectious diseases increased among certain categories of labourers coming from some countries where communicable diseases are endemic,” he pointed out.
“The national committee for expatriate medical tests reviewed the check-up mechanism and reported to the higher authorities to implement necessary precaution procedures to stop entry of foreign workers with contagious illnesses,” he said.
“However, all the expatriate workers will have to undergo a second round of medical tests in the UAE before obtaining their residency visa. This is to ensure that the expatriates don’t breach the law by producing fraudulent medical fitness certificates,” underscored Dr Fikri.
According to him, the committee is currently analysing the mechanism followed by the GCC Health Ministries Council to ensure the arrival of expatriate labourers without any infectious disease.
“The communicable diseases may disseminate locally, even if the affected persons stay in the country for a month before discovering their diseases while undergoing the necessary procedures. Also, some people with infectious diseases run away, further putting the public health at risk,” he elaborated.
“The MoH is currently coordinating with the health authorities in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to carry out inspection visits at the visa-medical test facilities in Asian countries to ensure accuracy, safety and reliability of the examinations conducted at such centres,” said Dr Fikri.
“As cases of contagious diseases are mainly reported among the Asian workers, the UAE will also seek implementing scientific methods to transfer the tests results and other health information directly to the UAE health authorities from the workers’ home countries,” he concluded.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

‘Lankan tourism booms in post-war era’

By PMA RASHEED 
3 May 2011, The Gulf Today

The Sri Lankan missions in the UAE aim at projecting the island as a tranquil holiday destination, in the post-LTTE era in the pearl of Indian Ocean.
The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Dubai have set up their national pavilion at the region’s pioneer tourism show Arabian Travel Market 2011 being staged at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre from May 2 to 5.
Sri Lanka has been participating at the past editions of the ATM, and this year the country pavilion has hosted 35 Sri Lankan companies.
Sarath Wijesinghe, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the UAE, said at a press conference on the sidelines of the ATM on Monday, “After eradicating the ethnic terrorism from the soil and the dawn of peace in Sri Lanka in 2009, the island has become a preferred destination in Asia and attracts a huge number of visitors from Europe, America and the Middle Eastern countries.”
“The target set by the Sri Lankan tourism authorities for the year 2010 had already exceeded and we will receive more than 800,000 tourists the current year,” he added.
“The promotion titled “Visit Sri Lanka 2011” has set up facilities for a million travelers to explore the island’s unique nature, wildlife, scintillating beaches, historical wonders, the peaceful atmosphere and the pleasant hospitality culture of the people,” noted Wijesinghe.
According to MM Abdul Raheem, Consul General of Sri Lanka in Dubai, Sri Lankan tourism has been surging ahead with an increase in arrivals from several global markets, with a steady growth noted from the Middle East region.
“The first quarter of 2011 has shown an increase of 22.9 per cent in arrivals from the region. In 2010, we saw a 51.5 per cent increase from the ME with the highest arrivals from the UAE, indicating a 65 per cent growth. The second highest was from Saudi Arabia and Israel,” he pointed out.
Malraj B Kiriella, Acting Managing Director of Sri Lankan Tourism Promotion Bureau, said the target in the number of tourists for the year 2015 is 2.5 million and it’s 5 million by the year 2020.
“Infrastructure development is ongoing and with the re-introduction of the sea plane operations as well as the executive helicopter services, getting from the airport to a secluded hide-way is convenient and economical,” he elaborated.
“When it comes to the tourists from the Middle East region, the cuisine is very important aspect of serving this market. Halal certification is ensured for the products used to prepare the cuisine for our guests from the Middle East region,” he concluded.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

‘Carriers of Thalassemia disease can go up to 1m in UAE’


By PMA RASHEED 
19 April 2011, The Gulf Today

Dubai: The number of carriers of the genetic disease thalassemia in the UAE may go up to 1 million, revealed a senior health official on Monday.
Dr Khawla Belhoul, director of the Thalassemia Centre of Dubai Health Authority (DHA), said that approximately 600,000 people in the Emirates are carriers of the disease. 
According to him, the number of patients may increase with the continuous influx of people from other countries, which are at high risk of the disease.
Thalassemia is a blood disorder that reduces the number of normal blood cells in the body. If two carriers have children, the likelihood of each child developing the disease is 25 per cent.
“Thalassemic patients are hooked on to blood for survival. They need regular, lifelong transfusions of blood. For thalassemia patients, blood is the most important resource, to ensure their survival. All the members of the society should come forward to donate and help save the lives of thousands of patients,” urged Dr Belhoul.
She was speaking to the media at a five-day awareness campaign, to mark World Thalassemia Day 2011, which falls on May 8.
According to her, the number of thalassemic patients in our society speaks volumes about the prevalence of this condition and thus such initiatives are vital to educate our community and reach out to them.
“In the UAE, one in 12 people carry the gene for thalassemia. Around 40 per cent of the patients at the Dubai Thalassemia Centre are Emiratis. Another 40 per cent are expatriates from Asian and African countries, while the other 20 per cent of thalassemic patients are Arab nationals,” elaborated Dr Belhoul.
“Geographically speaking, South Middle East, Mediterranean and Asian countries are at the highest risks of the condition. The rates of prevalence of the genetic disease vary from six to 12 to even 16 per cent in the countries,” she said.
The Dubai Thalassemia Centre is the Emirate’s only dedicated facility to manage this condition by providing internationally recognised levels of care in chronic disease management for thalassemic patients.
“About 420 patients receive regular treatment and blood transfusions at the centre,” noted Dr Belhoul, “Each patient requires approximately 34 units of blood annually through an average 17 transfusions. However, additional units of blood may be required depending on the patient’s condition. We also receive extra patients who visit the centre for transfusions from time to time.”
“Education of patients, family members and the public in general, is a key part of chronic disease management and we at the centre strongly advocate the importance of such campaigns and initiatives which provide the public information and well as give them an opportunity to ask questions about the disease,” she added.
Khalid Al Sheikh Mubarak, deputy director general at the DHA, said the efforts of the authority are towards reducing the prevalence of Thalassemia in the society.
“The DHA will send eight thalassemic patients to Turkey for a holiday trip as part of the campaign to support them. Patients above the age of 18 will fly to Turkey on the April 22, along with two nurses from the thalassemia centre,” he added.
According to him, the trip will provide them with recreational activities to break the monotony of regular treatments, which they need to undergo.
After this campaign, staff members and patients from the centre will head to the 14th TIF (Thalassemia International Federation) international conference for patients and parents, which will take place in Turkey from May 11 to 14.

Benchmark to check vegetable price manipulation

By PMA RASHEED
28 April 2011, The Gulf Today

Solid parametres to create transparency and stability of prices in the local vegetable market have been implemented by the authorities in the capital.
The Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Services Centre (ADFSC) has set up a weekly price benchmark for locally-grown vegetables, effectively preventing price manipulation by some traders who artificially drive prices high or low.
A top official indicated that the initiative will satisfy customer requirements with competitive prices and quality presentation of the produce, while ensuring a competitive environment for locally-grown products to increase the income of farm owners and develop a sustainable agricultural production.
Christopher Hirst, CEO of the ADFSC, said the weekly list of prices for the purchase of local products from farmers will protect them from daily market fluctuations and the purchase prices will ensure them achieve the highest returns from their products.
The weekly price benchmark has been made available in the vegetables collection centres in the western region of Abu Dhabi.
“The benchmark will create a certain balance in prices through the enhancement of opportunities of marketing the local produce in a way which suits the interest of both the producer and the consumers alike,” he added.
The system sets the average price for the purchase of local produce which is incorporated into supply contracts with farmers, ensuring them a stable marketing opportunity free from the risk of daily price fluctuations.
“Since the beginning of the current farming season, the ADFSC has been implementing different measures to control vegetables prices in the favor of consumers,” he said.
“Customers have witnessed an evident decrease in the cost of vegetables during the last two months as a result of the abundance of local production of fresh vegetables, especially cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbages and eggplants,” according to him.
“Prices of some vegetables also have reduced at unprecedented rates due to the higher volumes of local produce and the increase in the number of marketing channels of the local produce. The ADFSC annual contract agreement enables the farmer to focus on cultivation and production since the marketing is secured for the entire 12-month period.”
“Feasibility studies made about the marketing of the local products suggested that the agricultural marketing centres play a pivotal role as a main marketing channel for farmers and livestock breeders, allowing them to compete in the local market,” elaborated Hirst.
As per the overall price indicator, the majority of vegetables registered a decrease ranging from 40 per cent to 60 per cent during the last two months in comparison with the same period last year.
The centre will launch a comprehensive marketing plan to promote local produce. Infrastructure will be developed to facilitate the delivery, transport, storage and distribution operations of the produce sourced from local farms.
“Provision of suitable marketing channels will guarantee the marketing and the arrival of these products to consumers,” Hirst concluded.
(Pix: Supplied)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ban lifted on bird import from GCC countries

By PMA RASHEED
18 April 2011, The Gulf Today

Dubai: The Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW) has lifted a ban on import of live birds and poultry products from the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab region.
The MoEW had imposed the ban earlier as part of its surveillance on bird flu pandemic that communicated through import of bird products.
Dr Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahad, the Minister of Environment and Water, on Sunday issued an administrative decision in this regard based on recent recommendations from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
The nod has been given to lift the ban on trading in all species of birds and their products from the GCC and the Arab countries, according to a spokesperson at the MoEW.
“The resolution specifies entry of any type of bird live or slaughtered, or their products by obtaining an import permit in advance from the environment ministry,” she said.
“The exporting country should be free of bird flu at least 12 months before the date of shipment, with certificates and documents from government agencies to prove that the products are free from virus or contamination,” she added.
“The shipment of live birds should carry veterinary health certificate from competent authorities of the exporting country to ensure that they are noted affected with any type of infectious disease. Also the importer should produce a certificate issued by an accredited laboratory within a period not exceeding 21 days of the export that the birds or products have been tested clinically,” elaborated the ministry official.
“In the case of breach of any condition, the imported consignment will be rejected and returned to the country of origin or will be confiscated and destroyed in the UAE in accordance with the quarantine procedures,” she concluded.
(Pic used for illustrative purpose)

Al Barsha health centre to serve 60,000 residents

By PMA RASHEED
14 April 2011, The Gulf Today

Dubai: Aimed at catering to 60,000 residents, the health centre in Al Barsha will be operational in mid 2012, announced Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
The health centre, located in Al Barsha 2, has a built up area of 70,000 sq ft, and will be constructed with a total investment of Dhs50 million, said Qadhi Saeed Al Murooshid, director general of the DHA.
He was speaking after laying foundation stone for the state-of-the-art facility on Wednesday.
"The DHA is planning to launch more facilities to strengthen primary health care system in the emirate, and address the medical needs of the population at the highest global standards of quality. The authority has a total of 16 health clinics spread out across the emirate," he added.
According to Al Murooshid, the primary health clinics should provide frontline treatment to patients.
"The Al Barsha health centre will provide multidisciplinary services to its population. It will have two an emergency section, family clinics, specialist clinics, specialist centres, dental centres, maternity and child care, x-ray and laboratory, health screening services and a pharmacy," he elaborated.
The existing primary health care centres of the DHA are located in Al Mamzar, Abu Hail, Al Qusais Al Twar Al Rashidiya, Al Khawaneej, Nad Al Hammar Al Mazhar, Al Safa, Al Mankhool, Al Lisaily, Al Barsha, Umm Suqeim, Al Bada'a and Nad Al Sheba, in addition to the Airport Medical Health Centre.

Green choice when fish is on menu

By PMA RASHEED 
12 April 2011, The Gulf Today

Dubai: Resources of the UAE’s highly favoured fish Hamour is at the top of the over-fished species list, as it has been facing declines of 90 per cent since 1978, reveals an environment expert.

This delicious fish is excessively exploited and being trawled seven times beyond sustainable levels, said Nessrine Alzahlawi, Conservation Officer and Marine Biologist at The Emirates Wildlife Society- WWF (EWS-WWF).
She was speaking after the launch of “Sustainable Fish Recipes”, a first-of-its-kind sustainable fish cookbook that features 20 sustainable fish recipes from the UAE.
The new ‘choose wisely’ cookbook has been released by the Emirates Wildlife Society- WWF (EWS-WWF) on Monday at Gordon Ramsey’s Verre restaurant at Hilton Dubai Creek. The book is a real community effort, reflecting the special nature of the UAE residents and fish.
“The cookbook is the latest addition to the EWS-WWF’s ‘choose wisely’ sustainable fisheries campaign. It showcases recipes submitted to the sustainable fish dish challenge. This is the green choice, when fish is on the menu for the UAE residents,” added Alzahlawi.
“The recipes help people taste the benefits of eating sustainable green-labeled “Go For It” fish and offers consumers alternatives to eating red-labeled “Think Again” fish such as the Hammour, King Fish, and Shaari,” she added.
“Recipes reflect the cuisines of India, the UAE, Europe and South America. Recipes of Tamil Nadu Fish Curry, Shaari Eshkeli with Lemon and Olive Oil, and Hot-Smoked Green Tea Souli Wraps are a few among them,” said Alzahlawi.
According to her, the main goal of the EWS-WWF’s “Choose Wisely” campaign is to address the environmental impact of overfishing in the UAE by increasing customer awareness about the heavy exploitation of UAE fish resources, encourage action from concerned stakeholders, and offer delicious tasting ‘Go For It’ alternatives.
“With colorful names like the Pink-Eared Emperor, Orange-Spotted Trevally, Yellow Bar Angel Fish, and the Sordid Sweetlips, sustainable green-labeled “Go For It” fish taste delicious. The 48-page bi-lingual cookbook explores their flavors with 20 fully-illustrated multi-ethnic recipes submitted by amateur chefs from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujairah,” she elaborated.
“The recipes were sourced as part of the ‘Sustainable Fish Dish Challenge’ sponsored by the EWS-WWF and the Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi. Consumers submitted their favorite sustainable fish recipes to the www.choosewisely.ae website,” noted Alzahlawi.
“The recipes were rated by fellow fish eaters. A selection of recipes from the participants in the Sustainable Fish Dish Challenge was chosen for this book. The cookbook recently won the "UAE Best Fish and Seafood Book" from the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2010 for its efforts,” she added.
The 20 sustainable fish recipes use sustainable species of the UAE fish which will be made available free of charge from Choose Wisely partners’ hotels and restaurants, as well as from the EWS-WWF offices located on the 8th floor of the Chamber of Commerce Building in Abu Dhabi .
(Pic: Supplied) 

More health facilities to get global accreditation

By PMA RASHEED
11 April 2011, The Gulf Today

Dubai: Aimed at raising the quality standards of healthcare services, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has decided to implement more strategies and procedures that would help gain international accreditation for the country's public and private sector healthcare facilities.
The ministry had signed an agreement last year with a US Accreditation agency to evaluate the services, performance standards and practices at the ministry's healthcare facilities.
The ministry is currently speeding up the implementation of the criteria at the health facilities, by setting up a special committee in this regard, according a top MoH official.
Khalid Majid Lootah, assistant undersecretary for Institutional and Supporting Services at the MoH, said the team will supervise the accreditation procedures and an action plan. The team has begun visiting three hospitals such as Sheikh Khelifa Hospital in Ajman, Saqer Hospital in Ras Al Khaimah and Kalba Hospital.
"The accreditation project will be implemented within ten phases beginning with a training programme, formation of a supervision committee, training of the employees, supervision of the team for preparation of the hospitals in the project, field trips to hospitals and health centres, initial assessment, and preparation of final report," he added.
Dr Amina Al Marzooqi, one of the team members, said an initial assessment for the services at the hospitals has been prepared, which highlights three main aspects, such as leadership factors, administration techniques and health services and safety of patients.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Daughter of Indian singer drowns in Dubai pool


By PMA RASHEED 
15 April 2011, The Gulf Today

DUBAI: Renowned Indian playback singer KS Chithra’s eight-year-old daughter Nandana drowned in the swimming pool of a private villa at Emirates Hills in Dubai on Thursday morning.
The body was repatriated to the Indian city of Chennai, where the singer’s family is settled, on Thursday night.
Nandana, a special needs child, was found lying in the pool at 8.30am. The child was rushed to Cedars Jebel Ali International Hospital, but it was too late, sources said.
Chithra landed in Dubai with her daughter and husband Vijayashankar a couple of days ago to perform at AR Rahman “Special Hits” musical show at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Thursday evening to celebrate the Oscar-winning Indian musician’s playback tracks.
Manikandan, a Dubai resident who is close to Chithra’s family, told The Gulf Today that the tragedy happened while the singer and her family were preparing to leave their friend’s residence for the show’s rehearsal.
“When they saw the front door of the house open and Nandana missing, they rushed out and found her in the swimming pool. After confirming the child’s death at the private hospital, the body was taken to Dubai Police Scientific and Forensic Lab and from there to Sonapur Health Centre for embalming. By around 6.30pm the body was moved to the airport for repatriation,” he added.
The incident has plunged the entire Indian film fraternity in shock and sorrow. “It was sad news for Keralites that their beloved KS Chitra’s only little daughter Nandana died after falling into the swimming pool,” Manikandan said.
Nandana, now a Grade 1 student at a Chennai school, was born to the singer who was childless for around 15 years of her marriage.  KS Chithra had told this reporter earlier on the eve of a Dubai music show that she used to take her daughter for the music shows anywhere in the world, as Nandana is a special needs child.
When she came to Dubai, Chithra chose her sister’s home instead of staying with the rest of the troupe at a hotel arranged by concert organizers Media Factory.
Chitra and her husband Vijayashankar, an engineer-turned-businessman, were blessed with Nandana immediately after the release of the Malayalam movie titled “Nandanam,” for which Chitra sung a hit track, and thus the couple named her so.
KS Chitra has lent her voice to films in various languages and has bagged six national awards and numerous other accolades.
(Pic: Supplied) 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Health ministry doubles drug budget to Dhs300m

By PMA RASHEED 
9 April 2011, The Gulf Today 

The fund for purchasing medicines for hospitals and health centres in the public sector has been doubled by the UAE Ministry of Health (MoH) by 100 per cent, from Dhs150 million spent in 2010 to an outlay of Dhs300 million this year.
The authority is currently implementing a new mechanism to purchase all the necessary medicines in advance for 2011, indicated a top MoH official.
Khalid Majid Lootah, assistant undersecretary for Institutional and Supporting Services at the MoH, said the procedure would identify the need for drugs at the various health facilities, while enabling each hospital to clearly specify the requirements simultaneously.
“The system will be completely implemented next year, and the MoH will give out the drugs to all hospitals based on their requirements. The issues pertaining to shortage of drugs for chronic diseases, diabetes and high blood pressure will be resolved fully once it’s fully operational,” he added.
“Painkillers and vaccinations for various diseases worth Dhs56 million have been included in the current year’s budget for drugs to be supplied at the government hospitals. The value of drugs to be purchased to be used for treatment of chronic diseases has been estimated at Dhs17 million,” he revealed.
“The total cost of medicine purchases by the ministry during the two past months had reached Dhs117 million. Around Dhs752,000 have been allocated to guarantee the required medicines at the hospitals and health centres for the coming six months,” noted Lootah. 
Dr Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, UAE Minister of Health, said the decision comes to ensure essential medicines to all residents in the country, by guaranteeing sufficient quantity of medicines at the government health facilities in all medical districts.
“The federal authority has issued a circular to implement the new electronic system Wareed at all facilities. The automated system will effectively regulate the availability of medicines and rectify shortage of drugs with accuracy and efficiency,” he added.
Lootah called directors of all hospitals and health centres to inform the ministry on the drug requirement within sufficient time to speed up supply procedures easily and smoothly.
“This will enable the MoH to take the right decision at the right time, and estimate financial allocations and adopt the purchasing items according to the unified purchasing agreements in the GCC countries,” he concluded.