Thursday, March 31, 2011

67 drugs to go cheaper from July

30 March 2011, The Gulf Today

Prices of as many as 67 medicines have been decreased by five per cent to 40 per cent by three major drug manufactures in the UAE, announced the Ministry of Health (MoH).
The price reduction comes into effect following a study undertaken by a MoH-formed special committee, whose findings had revealed that the prices of medicines, which prevailed in the UAE, were the highest in the region.
Dr Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, the Minister of Health has signed a ministerial decision to approve the new drugs price list, which will come into effect from the beginning of July at all private pharmacies in the UAE.
The announcement was made during the inauguration of Pfizer’s new regional headquarters in Dubai Media City on Tuesday.
Dr Amin Al Amiri, assistant undersecretary for Medical Practices and Licences at the MoH, said, “The pharmaceutical manufacturers Pfizer International, Merck Sharp and Dhome have already reduced their prices of widely-used medicines for a range of diseases including blood pressure, cholesterol, prostate hypertrophy, epilepsy, depression and schizophrenia.”
“Another 20 international pharmaceutical companies are expected to follow suit soon and reduce their prices,” said Dr Amiri, adding, “Other drugs in the revised price list included antibiotics, steroids, antifungal and analgesics.”
According to him, the three drug manufactures responded to the initiatives of the health ministry to elicit the co-operation of the public and private sectors in reducing medicine prices.
Dr Salem Al Darmaki, acting undersecretary at the MoH, noted the health ministry will develop more social partnerships aimed at raising the standards of medical treatment services at reasonable costs that match the residents’ purchasing capacity and living standards, but without financially affecting the service providers.
(Pic used for illustrative purpose only)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

People power the ‘hour’

Thousands join Earth Hour 2011 activities in UAE 

27 March 2011, The Gulf Today 

Despite the disruptive climatic conditions that restrained the normal pace of life in the UAE on Saturday, thousands of residents congregated at hundreds of outdoor venues across the seven emirates for the world’s largest civil action on climate change- Earth Hour 2011.

Sandstorms curtained the UAE’s iconic landmarks’ visibility during the day, while the darkness draped the popular attractions at night between 8.30pm and 9.30pm, joining the global action towards a sustainable future.
The UAE residents from every walk of life, in communities large and small, symbolically dimmed lights in their residential premises on Saturday evening, in solidarity with hundreds of millions of people around the world.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi — the resting place of the UAE’s founding father, and the tallest manmade structure in the world Burj Khalifa temporarily went dark during the hour, in addition to hundreds of other landmarks and residential premises across the UAE.
Showing solidarity with activists across the globe on a mission to raise awareness on keeping the earth sustainable, scores of people in the UAE gathered in parks, streets, town squares and homes and witnessed the lights going out on iconic landmarks and city skylines. They captured the moments of the Earth Hour on videos or still cameras, and pledged to conserve energy for the future.
Patron of the Earth Hour in the UAE, the Emirates Wildlife Society (EWS-WWF) said the participation from the UAE government and private sectors and social organisations exceeded that of the last year. “The most significant message this Earth Hour observation spreads is the importance of using natural light, instead of artificial light by letting the sunshine in where there are windows,” said Ida Tillich, acting director general of EWS-WWF.
“It was all about giving people a voice and working together to create a better future. The people stood up to take responsibility to protect the environment, turning off all lights along with hundreds of million people across the world,” she added.
“Residents of the seven emirates expressed their commitment to Earth Hour by demonstrating action for the environment and sharing messages with the rest of the community. The campaign will continue to showcase a long-term commitment to evolve beyond switching off the lights for an hour,” Tillich remarked.
“We received immense support from government institutions, businesses and individuals throughout several emirates. The list of UAE landmarks took part in this global climate event included dozens of organizations across the emirates,” she noted.
According to her, observation of the cause turned out to be an excellent example of how the private sector, the government, educators and communities could work together with to strengthen and advance the awareness of our country on environmental issues.
Hind Ahmed Shaker, Director of Government Communications at the Ministry of Environment and Water, said the observation of the Earth Hour should inspire us to reduce our energy use. “It’s the contemplation of the one thing we all have in common - our planet. “The Earth Hour is about the responsibility that all of us have in protecting our environment,” she added.
Sameera Fernandes, a communications professional in Dubai, said the UAE has one of the highest ecological footprints per capita, so our role in addressing what is unequivocally the greatest threat to the planet today is absolutely vital.
“The Earth Hour encourages individuals, commercial establishments and government institutions to demonstrate their leadership on environmental solutions through actions,” she added.
Saeed Al Tayer, Managing Director and CEO of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), hailed said the solidarity of all residents in Dubai to shut down lights and unnecessary electric goods during the earth hour.
He advised the residents to continue the passion and spirit of conservation which they showed during the event by going beyond the Earth Hour and make a pledge, large or small, to preserve natural resources in their daily lives.
“The DEWA was the first institution to support Earth Hour since 2008. The authority has been implementing various programmes to educate its customers and the community on the responsible use of electricity and water, conservation of the environment and the protection of our planet,” noted Al Tayer.
Ahmad Al Matrooshi, Managing Director of Emaar Properties talked about participation of Emaar in the Earth Hour prgramme, “The Earth Hour is one of the key sustainability initiatives that we undertake across our communities to further strengthen awareness on climate change, while at the same time driving the participatory action of our residents. “The participation of our communities will contribute to tangible energy gains in addition to encouraging people to be more judicious about energy use.”
(Pix by Nisham A Manaf)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dark landmarks to light up green message

26 March 2011, The Gulf Today

Iconic landmarks, residents, government departments and various organisations in the UAE will join millions across the world on Saturday in marking the largest action for the planet, Earth Hour 2011, by switching off electric lights for an hour from 8.30pm.

This year, the global lights-out event has reached record participation, with 131 countries and territories registered to take part, on all seven continents.

Activists and public figures in the UAE have urged the public to show their support for the planet in many ways, whether they are individuals, businesses or schools. “You can start by signing up and joining the Earth Hour movement in the UAE, or can create your own Earth Hour event.”

Various public events have been planned to mark the time when iconic landmarks across the emirates, including Burj Khalifa in Dubai and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi will go dark in solidarity with the world’s largest environmental call for action on climate change.
This year the Earth Hour urges individuals, governments and other organisations to “Go Beyond the Hour” by committing to enduring actions, big or small, that they will sustain for the future of our planet.
The Emirates Wildlife Society (EWS), in tandem with the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), will run the campaign to showcase a long-term commitment to evolve beyond switching off the lights for an hour. 
A spokesperson of the EWS-WWF said the list of landmarks participating in the global switch-off event and number of participants in the UAE is record breaking this year. More than 200 companies have signed up, most of whom pledged to go beyond the hour.
The EWS-WWF called for all UAE residents to take action and get involved with events set to take place across Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah and other emirates.
“The public events planned across the emirates included programmes at Abu Dhabi Corniche Beaches, Dubai Festival City celebrations at the Marina, Burj Khalifa Earth Hour switch-off celebration and bazaar at Burj Plaza, porgrammes at Al Qasba in Sharjah and Earth Hour gathering at the Fujairah Fort,” said the EWS-WWF official.
On the occasion of Earth Hour 2011, Dr Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad, the UAE Minister of Environment and Water (MoEW), commented, “The growing participation of the UAE residents and organisations in the movement indicates the higher level of awareness in the community to protect the environment and achieve sustainable development.”
“We should achieve sustainable development for us and the future generations. Simple changes in the pattern of our lives can reduce our carbon footprint, save our precious natural resources, and contribute to making the planet a better place to live,” he added.
Ida Tillisch, acting director general of EWS-WWF, said, that the “Going beyond the hour” programme calls for daily actions that incorporate environmentally sustainable practices into one’s lifestyle, and into the corporate sector.

In Sharjah, all non-essential lights will be switched off at the popular entertainment destination Al Qasba and Etisalat building during the hour. An array of educational fun activities will be hosted at Sharjah Aquarium and Maritime Museum outdoor area between 5 to 9.30pm.
In anticipation of the Earth Hour, the Sharjah’s official environmental establishment Bee’ah is calling upon the residents to recycle household waste on a regular basis which will help conserve energy long after the Earth Hour is forgotten.
Khaled Al Huraimel, Chief Executive Officer of Bee’ah, commented that residents can drop their recyclable household waste items such as paper, plastics, aluminium cans and plastic at the central temporary collection point set up at Al Qasba.
“The Bee’ah will then quantify the energy saved by recycling these items. The effort will contribute to conserving even more energy via recycling, and not just by turning off the lights for one hour,” he added.

Abu Dhabi
The Municipality of Abu Dhabi City hosts the Earth Hour on the 30th Street of the Cornice Road. The programme scheduled to start at 6.45pm with a lantern walk with Abu Dhabi EcoChicks at beach parking area near Hilton Hotel; followed by ‘Drum up support for Earth Hour’ by Dubai Drums Community, light bulbs exchange programme and musical performance.

“The celebrations will be kicked off at 06.45pm by a candle-lit rally starting off ADNOC refueling station (Beach visitor car park) at Abu Dhabi Corniche to Al Saahel Square beside the Formal Park, accompanied by a military and police band parades as well as drum teams as part of a host of community events,” said the municipality.
The civic body will switch off lights at its head quarters in Al Salam Street as well as at the municipal external centres at Al Bateen, Al Shahama, Al Wathba, Al Zaafraneh and Al Musaffah.

In Dubai, the Burj Khalifa programme will witness traditional bazaar with cooking stations and handicrafts at Burj Khalifa Plaza at 5pm. The lantern march, hosted by DEWA, will be staged between 8.30pm to 9.30pm. The festival city will host school art exhibition and competition at DFC Atrium, candle light and floating lantern celebration for the planet, entertainment at DFC Marina, and candlelight dinners at DFC dining venues.
Two digital cameras and printer will be presented to the winning Earth Hour photos posted on EWS-WWF Facebook page, while two laptop computers are waiting the winners of the school-aged children participating at the DFC exhibition.
The ship repair entity Drydocks World will observe the Earth Hour, said its chairman Khamis Juma Buamim, “The programme could help us in power savings of up to 10,800KWH at the Dubai yard.”
“Supporting the global consciousness drive for the preservation and responsible consumption of our natural resources, du will switch off electricity in its facilities in Dubai Outsource Zone, Dubai Academic City 8 & 9, Al Salam and Lotus between 8.30pm and 9.30pm,” said Hala Badri, EVP Brand and Communications at du.

Starting from 7pm Kamal Musalam will perform modern Arabic Music at a gathering near Fujairah Fort, which will switch off lights and candle lanterns will float into the air until 9.30pm.
“There’s more to it than switching off lights for one hour once a year. It’s all about giving people a voice and working together to create a better future,” remarked Ida Tillisch.
“More governmental policies should be developed for the conservation of environment and regulations for effective energy saving in the country. Together we can achieve the meaningful emission reduction necessary to fight climate change,” opined the environmental activist.
“The EWS-WWF programme will give lessons to individuals on going beyond the hour with simple daily actions such as setting air-conditioners to 24 instead of 22 degrees, washing cars with a bucket instead of using a hose, and switching lights to high efficiency bulbs,” she added.
(Pix Supplied)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Locally grown potatoes to enter UAE markets soon

24 March 2011, The Gulf Today 

The residents of the UAE can now enjoy potatoes grown locally in the farms of the country’s Western Region, thanks to the initiatives of the Farmers’ Services Centre in Abu Dhabi (FSC) to introduce potato crops in the desert. 
After a successful growing season during the cooler months, farmers are now harvesting up to 25 tonnes every day, with an estimated total harvest of 2,000 tonnes, say officials at the FSC.
Chris Hirst, chief executive officer of the FSC, said the first harvest of large, medium and locally grown salad potatoes, grown on Abu Dhabi farms in much the same way as other field crops, will arrive in stores across the country soon.
“The FSC distributed 150 tonnes of seed potatoes earlier this year to 350 farms in the Western Region under a credit agreement that allows farmers to pay for the seed after the crops have been harvested and marketed,” he added.
“The centre provided training and support to farmers for potato production,” Hirst noted.
According to him, the FSC plans to cultivate more water-efficient vegetables that will improve local food security and efficiency of agricultural water use.
“While traditionally seen as a water intensive crop, potatoes offer long-term food security as well as food production efficiency. The potatoes are surprisingly more effective in terms of food production compared with fodder crops and other vegetables,” he elaborated.
“For every litre of water consumed, potatoes produce one kilocalorie of energy compared to crops such as wheat, which requires double amount of water to generate the same amount of energy,” Hirst pointed out.
"In addition, the storage potential of potatoes make them a valuable product in increasing local food security, notably in a year when water shortages and inclement weather are likely to impact crops in the traditional supply markets of Europe and Saudi Arabia,” he added.
“The most efficient and appropriate strategies are being developed for farming production. Potatoes are well-suited to the UAE’s environment and consumption habits, fitting with our strategic aim to create a holistic, market-driven agricultural sector,” Hirst said.
“The FSC aims to improve the sustainability of the emirate’s agricultural sector, reduce water use, improve the quality of local produce, enhance national food security and ensure a fair income for farmers. It will be launching a brand for high-quality, locally-grown vegetables in 2011.”
“Potatoes are similar to most open field vegetable crops grown in the Western Region. They are planted as specially produced seed potatoes from mid-September to mid-January. They require irrigation, which is supplied though dripper pipes placed in the plant rows. They are produced using an integrated system, which uses a combination of water, fertilizer and other agro chemicals,” explained Hirst.
“They can be produced from 90 to 120 days depending on varieties of planting to harvesting. After harvest they can be sold fresh or stored for prolonged periods and released when the market requires them,” he concluded.

(Images: Supplied)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

UAE strictly regulates Japanese food products

Federal and local bodies tighten control over food imports from Japan

23 March 2011, The Gulf Today

No consumer food products contaminated by nuclear radiation from quake and Tsunami-hit Japan will be distributed in the UAE, assured the federal food safety watchdog.
At the federal level, the Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW), on Tuesday, put into place tight control measures concerning food imports from Japan.
On the other hand, in the Emirate of Dubai, its civic body — concerned about possible radiation contamination — on Tuesday assured that no food products from Japan would be released for sale in the Emirate until lab tests confirm that they are free from contamination and suitable for human consumption.
Dr Mariam Hassan Al Shanasi, acting undersecretary at the MoEW told The Gulf Today that the ministry has undertaken necessary actions to screen foodstuffs imported from Japan.
“The labs under the ministry will conduct the necessary examinations on the Japanese food items to ensure they are safe for human consumption,” she added.
“Those foodstuffs which are contaminated will be confiscated forthwith,” indicated Dr Al Shanasi.
According to her, the country’s labs and facilities can detect radioactive material in the imported foodstuffs.
A senior official at the Dubai Municipality said that the most of the imported food items from Japan to Dubai include fruits, vegetables, fish and seafood products, beverages, soft drinks, grains and cereals, herbs, spices, coffee and tea products, chocolates, sugar and confectioneries.
He pointed out, “However, the food imports from Japan cover less than 1 per cent of the total number of shipments to Dubai. Japanese expatriates living in the emirate are the main consumers of these food products.”
“A total of 450 Japanese shipments arrived in Dubai between January and December in 2010, while the number of shipments is 175 since January to March 15 this year. The total weight of shipments from Japan was estimated at 9,000.54 tonnes last year, while it’s 2,900.83 tonnes until March 15 of this year,” disclosed the municipality.
Speaking about the scientific specifications of the possible radioactive substances, Dr Al Shanasi elaborated, “The radioactive substances that may affect the foodstuffs include Caesium-134 and Caesium-137, which can be detected in water.”
The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) had said on Monday that all food items from Japan will be supplied in the market after stringent monitoring and procedures of laboratory tests.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Health ministry updates pregnant women care protocol

2 March 2011, The Gulf Today

THE UAE Ministry of Health (MoH) on Tuesday has updated the protocol on pregnant women care in hospitals across the Northern Emirates, according to a senior health official.
Dr Hajar Al Hosani, director of the Central Administration for Maternity Care and Childhood, said the set of norms for pregnant women care have been revamped by the ministry, aimed at ensuring the highest global standard care and services provided to both mothers and infants.
“Administration officials of hospitals and primary healthcare centres in the Northern Emirates reviewed the previous protocol, before updating its articles to prepare it for the final draft of the new set of standards,” she added.
“The new norms will be implemented in maternity care departments of hospitals and primary health centres in the Northern Emirates to level up with international protocols,” noted Al Hosani.
According to her, the protocol also includes post-partum services to provide continuous medical services for mothers before and after the birth of the child.
The health ministry last month had implemented new regulations on screening of newborn babies for 16 types of genetic disorders. The national newborn screening programme will include 30 checkups from next year onwards. The screening was limited to five diseases earlier.

Friday, March 18, 2011

'Traffic accidents No.1 infant killer in UAE'

18 March 2011, The Gulf Today 

About 62 per cent of infant mortality in the UAE is a result of car traffic accidents, revealed a senior official at Dubai Health Authority (DHA) on Thursday.
Dr Ali Al Marzooqui, director of Public Health and Safety Department of the Health Policy and Strategy Sector at the DHA said that the statistic is not surprising, when one notes that only 2 per cent of infants are actually restrained in a proper car safety seat.
“It is a well-documented fact that traffic injuries and accidents are the UAE’s number one infant killer as more than 62 per cent of baby mortality cases are related to car accidents,” he added.
Dr Al Marzooqui was speaking as part of the DHA’s campaign aimed at highlighting the importance of using a car seat for babies and infants in Dubai.
“Given the statistics, raising awareness and enforcing a law to ensure that babies and infants only travel by car when restrained in a car seat is the obvious way forward. It is everybody’s responsibility to keep our babies safe,” he elaborated.
“The campaign will run from March 17 to 19 at the Mall of the Emirates and a booth will be set up to educate the public about how to use an infant car seat and its importance to protect babies and infants from accidents and fatalities,” a DHA spokesperson said.
“The campaign coincides with the 27th GCC Traffic Week which runs from March 13 to 19. The programme under the slogan ‘Working together to reduce traffic injuries’ will reach out to a large section of society and educate them about health and safety issues,” he added.
Dr Ziad Al Najjar, senior public health promotion specialist, Public Health and Safety Department, Health Policy and Strategy Sector at the DHA, said, “Scientific research supported by independent testing, shows that these seats can reduce the risk of fatal injuries by 71 per cent.  It is important for families to understand the importance of using a safety seat for babies and infants.”
Ben Boenk, director of Dutchkid FZCO that joins the DHA in the campaign, said that the stand at the Mall of Emirates will be located at the Carrefour Entrance on the first floor and team members from Dutch Kid and Health Bay Polyclinic will be present to demonstrate how to use infant car seats.
“The public will be educated about the functionalities and benefits of using these seats as well as distribute brochures and discount vouchers,” he added.

Dubai Municipality issues new conditions on storage of hazardous goods

18 March 2011, The Gulf Today

Dubai Municipality (DM) has issued a new set of environmental requirements to store and handle dangerous goods inside industrial establishments, factory units, companies and warehouses registered in the Emirate.
The recent updation in the environmental conditions for the storage of hazardous items and chemicals comes as part of the local order No.6 of 1991 on “Systems to protect the environment in the Emirate of Dubai” and “ Practice Guide on the Management of Dangerous Goods in the Emirate of Dubai” and technical guidance related to the subject of the storage and handling of dangerous goods issued by the Environment Department of Dubai Municipality, said a top civic official.
Abdul Salam Mohammed Saleh, head of Environment Monitoring Section of the Environment Department at the DM, added that manufacturing or industrial establishments and their storage facilities should comply with the requirements contained in the legislation issued in respect of the storage of dangerous goods and chemicals, and the technical guidance issued by the DM’s environment department.
“All companies, facilities or warehouses that store dangerous goods or chemicals in quantities listed in the practice guide are required to obtain the permit for storage of dangerous goods issued by the environmental monitoring section at the DM,” indicated Saleh.
He noted that the number of permits for storage of dangerous goods in the Emirate has increased more than 300 per cent with 73 permits in 2010, compared to 17 permits issued in 2009.
“Non-compliance of the criteria by the establishments will invite strict legal action, including imposition of fines and disconnection of services. The reluctance to adhere to the conditions could also mean closure of such establishments, facilities and warehouses,” warned Salesh.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dubai Municipality to accredit labs in the UAE

17 March 2011, The Gulf Today

The Dubai Accreditation Centre (Dac) under Dubai Municipality (DM) has become the first internationally recognised local accreditation body in the UAE and fourth of that kind in the Middle-East region to provide accreditation to laboratories.
According to officials, the Dac will also be able to provide international accreditations for laboratories outside of the UAE. 
The DM and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) have signed a contract on Wednesday to recognise the accreditation given by the municipality to laboratories in the emirate, said a top DM official.
Hussain Nasser Lootah, director general of the DM, said the Dac, a member of the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC), will issue internationally recognised accreditation to testing and calibration laboratories in Dubai.
“Registered and licensed health establishments in Dubai can obtain internationally recognised accreditations for their laboratories by enhancing the quality of medical services as well as achieving technical excellence. The accreditations will ensure higher quality services at such facilities,” elaborated Lootah.
A top DHA official said that the health regulation department at the authority will add the Dac to the list of approved accreditation centres for labs in the emirate.
Qadhi Saeed Al Murooshid, director general of the DHA, said that an option to get laboratories accredited from a local body will significantly contribute to the healthcare facilitates in Dubai. It’s a cost-saving and convenient option for the health sector in the emirate.
“The DHA will provide high quality healthcare services to our stakeholders along with convenience and ease of services. This initiative will enhance the quality of medical services provided to the residents,” he added.
According to Dr Ramadan Ibrahim, director of health regulation at the DHA, this recognition makes it feasible for the laboratories in Dubai to approach a local accreditation body, which is both cost-effective and ensures a lesser turn-around time.
“The DHA, in future, will also recognise accreditations given by the DM to hospitals, once the civic body fulfils all the required criteria for the same,” he added.

Health ministry launches new vaccine for children

17 March 2011, The Gulf Today

The national immunisation programme under the Ministry of Health (MoH) has introduced a new and safer vaccine that protects children from a range of serious illnesses. 
The new immunisation injection, called Pneumoccoccal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV-13), can be administered on all children over the age of two months. The central preventive medicine department at the MoH presented the vaccine on Tuesday.
Dr Mahmoud Fikri, assistant undersecretary for health policies at the MoH, said the vaccine will provide children with the broadest coverage from 13 most widespread Pneumoccoccal serotypes that cause meningitis, pneumonia, blood infections and upper respiratory diseases, Bacteremia, Otitis Media, and other diseases. 
“Four doses of the vaccine are recommended to administer on children in the period of two, four and six months, and a booster dose at 18 months,” he added. 
Dr Salem Al Darmaki, acting undersecretary at the MoH, said in his speech at the seminar that streptococcus pneumonia prevention and treatment of infectious disease are of high priority in the UAE.
“Infectious diseases are on the rise and we have seen that they can travel through communities quickly and extract a heavy financial and human toll. So, the authorities are taking very specific steps to reduce incidence and prevalence rates through systematic prevention measures,” he added. 
According to him, streptococcus pneumonia can cause a situation as life threatening as advanced pneumonia.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Health ministry reveals plans to curb youth health issues

16 March 2011, The Gulf Today

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has announced the results of the UAE Global School Health Survey 2010 on Tuesday, revealing a range of challenges, which are affecting the health of the future generation.
The survey, which was conducted in the UAE with the support of the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, UNESCO, the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and the International AIDS Prevention Union, involved 2,581 students in the age group of 13 to 15 years from 52 government and private schools across the UAE.
It was carried out to study accurate information on their behaviour, activities and cultural disparities that may be a factor in triggering non-communicable diseases among young people, said a top health official. 

Authorities, based on the results of the scientific research, are currently planning to develop comprehensive prevention programmes and activities targeting the youth in the country, so as to reduce the burden of morbidity, disability and early death cases among them.
The study revealed that on a daily basis, only 26.2 per cent of the students eat fruits and 17.2 per cent vegetables daily. It also pointed out that  25.6 per cent of all students often drank soft drinks such as Coke and Pepsi and about 21 per cent of the respondents regularly eat fast food from Burger King and McDonalds and Pizza Hut and KFC outlets.
Nearly 78.9 per cent of the students said they had smoked cigarettes during the past thirty days, and they started the habit for the first time at the age of 14 years. About 10.7 per cent of the students had smoked cigarettes in a day during the past thirty days.
The survey also found that 12.3 per cent of the total students, male (18.5%) and females (7.7%), have used shisha and other forms of tobacco during the past thirty days.
Dr Mahmoud Fikri, executive director for Health Policies at the MoH, said the survey provided data on the prevalence of a range of unhealthy behaviors as well as the protective measures needed to tackle the causes of fatal diseases among the young people and adults.
“The results will significantly contribute to the development of integrated health strategies to save the future generation from severe health risks. The survey also will exchange information and expertise with regional and global health bodies and organisations,” he added.
“The research monitored sedentary lifestyle, higher prevalence of smoking or tobacco use among the school children, mental health and deep socio-cultural disparities,” Dr Fikri pointed out.
“During the survey, students from 26 government schools and 26 private schools were given a questionnaire on their preferences, eating habits, violence they encountered, physical fights and injuries, physical assaults they faced, mental problems, use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs, and their knowledge about HIV/AIDS,” he elaborated.
The inaugural global schools health survey conducted in 2005 had invited the authority’s attention to the alarming challenges resulting from careless behaviour of the young generation in the UAE.
According to him, the MoH is identifying priorities in developing prevention programmes and directing resources for school health services. “Trends and prevalence of health behaviors and protective factors in different countries will be identified to assess school health programmes.”
Nearly half of the students, at 46.7 per cent, said they received lessons during the school year about the benefits of healthy nutrition. About 15 per cent of the students were found to be obese according to the survey, while 35 per cent of them are overweight.
On the mental health of the students, they survey also revealed that 17.1 per cent felt lonely often during the past twelve months, while 38.4 per cent of them felt grief and loss of hope, almost daily for two consecutive weeks. Only 19.2 per cent of the students had received lessons on how to deal with stress.
Mayada Wahsh, programme director of UNICEF in the Gulf region, said, “The questionnaire was developed by experts in more than 15 countries around the world, in collaboration with the WHO, CDC and other international organisations over the past 15 months.”
“The results will be reviewed to draft advanced strategic and practical steps to save the youth from the fatal diseases caused by negative behaviours,” she added.
“Non-infectious diseases were the leading cause for 60 per cent of deaths in the world every year, and 47 per cent of the burden of diseases globally. There are specific risk factors that cause these rates of mortality,” elaborated Wahsh.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Environment ministry inspects organic farms

15 March 2011, The Gulf Today

THE Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW) carried out a nationwide inspection visits, since the beginning of this year, at a total of 51 farms, which includes organic farms and agricultural lands that are currently being transformed to organic farms.
The inspections aimed at monitoring the actual cultivated space at these sites, the quantity of production for each crop, and compliance to the requirements for organic agricultural practices, a spokesperson of the ministry said.
According to him, the ministry’s efforts are towards making the standards for organic farming in the UAE comparable to other developed countries in the world.
The federal Law No.5 of 2009 regarding organic products outlines strict guidelines on the production of organic food in the UAE to encourage the local agricultural sector and boost the stocks of locally grown fresh produces.
Specialists at the environment ministry certify organic farms, after thoroughly testing the soil quality at their premises at three different levels, including ground level, 60cm depth and 120cm depth. The crop samples were also tested during three different stages of growth to pick up any traces of chemicals.
“The technical team of the MoEW collected samples of soil, water and fruits for detailed analysis at the MoEW’s central lab.  The inspectors provided a number of solutions to farmers and owners of the organic farms, including a list of organic fertilisers and organic pesticides available in the market. The farmers also were educated on the pest control and mechanism to prevent diseases that might affect the crops. The authority will also issue scientific guides to the farmers on the practices and fertilisation procedures at the organic farms," said the MoEW official.
“The ministry targets production of higher volume of organic foods to raise the level of food security and standards of food safety in the country. The organic agriculture practices should be ensured of adherence to the regulations in different stages of production and their distribution,” he noted.
“The MoEW has scheduled periodic follow-up visits, after issuing certificates based on the verification of the farming and irrigation methods, organic fertilisation, processing of the lands for the planting season, cleanliness, and inspection of storing facilities.”
According to a 2010 statistics, the UAE had 13 organic farms with 23 more being developed before the end of 2011. The first farm to be certified was in Sharjah in 2005, which produced organic vegetables and dates.
The MoEW had planned to develop 3,000 hectares of dedicated organic farming agricultural land, even though the production process might face hindrances due to the arid desert climate.
The organic food produces are of higher quality, safer for human consumption, and free from residues of pesticides and all forms of pollutants. Such farming system permanently maintains the fertility of the soil in the long run.
The MoEW insists on the organic farms that they must be free from sewage or treated sewage water and should be located far from chemical plants, cement factories and highways or air polluted areas.
“Mineral fertilisers and chemical pesticides, and potassium nitrate or sodium are not permitted for use in the organic agricultural system. The organic pesticides are natural and biological resistant products that prevent insects or fungus,” said a statement from the MoEW.
“The use of hormones and growth regulators such urea, nitrate, sulfate, ammonia, ammonium nitrate, sulfate, potassium, magnesium and phosphate also should not be used at these premises,” it said.
(Pix : Supplied)

S.Korean president visits Dubai this week

12 March 2011, The Gulf Today

The President of the Republic of Korea Lee Myung-bak will visit Dubai this week to receive Zayed International Prize for Environment.
Organisers of the award said that Lee Myung-bak will receive the prize in Dubai from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai at a special Award Ceremony on Monday at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Lee had been announced as the winner of the top award in the Zayed International Prize for global leadership in environment earlier this month for the year 2011 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to implement “green growth” concept.
The “green growth” is a new paradigm for economic development that binds together environment protection and economic prosperity, creating new growth engines and jobs through green technology and clean energy.
“President Lee Myung-bak’s leadership was a central driver in transforming the Republic of Korea’s development path into a low carbon, resource efficient and green economy,” a spokesperson of the award committee said.
“The prize value of $1 million is divided into three categories with the top honour of $500,000 being awarded for Global leadership in environment, which is given to an individual or organisation with a clear impact on the international policy in protecting environment and achieving sustainable development,” he added. 
The jury decided that the achievements of the prize winners fulfil the objectives of the Zayed Prize in line with the philosophy of the late Sheikh Zayed.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

'Go beyond the call of Earth Hour this year'

9 March 2011, The Gulf Today

At 8.30pm on 26 March, lights will be switched off around the globe for the 2011 edition of Earth Hour, the world's largest environmental call for action on climate change.
A number of iconic landmarks in the UAE will also keep dimmed their lights between 8.30pm to 9.30pm on the Saturday to observe the annual lights out event, in solidarity with activities across the globe on a mission to raise awareness on keeping the earth sustainable.
But there's more to it than switching off lights for one hour once a year. It's all about giving people a voice and working together to create a better future, say environmental activists in the UAE.
Being an opportunity to make a difference for saving the earth every day, the hour unites hundreds of millions of people worldwide with a commitment to ongoing change for the betterment of the planet.
The Emirates Wildlife Society (EWS), in tandem with the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), will run a campaign to showcase a long-term commitment to evolve beyond switching off the lights for an hour.
This year, the activities will witness a growing global community committed to taking environmental actions on an elevated level with people being asked to commit to an action, big or small, that they will sustain the future of the planet.
The WWF has launched a "Beyond the Hour" programme, urging residents of the seven emirates to express their commitment to Earth Hour by demonstrating action for the environment and sharing messages with the rest of the community.
"People are encouraged to upload photographs of sustainable lifestyle themes at in solidarity with the celebration," indicated a WWF spokesperson, "The UAE's "Green Sheikh" Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Nuaimi and other prominent personalities have already uploaded pictures on the web portal. Hosts of photographs from people committing to environmental change can be viewed at the site."
Ida Tillisch, acting director general of EWS-WWF, said, that the "Going beyond the hour" programme calls for daily actions that incorporate environmentally sustainable practices into one's lifestyle, and into the corporate sector.
"More governmental policies should be developed for the conservation of environment and regulations for effective energy saving in the country. Together we can achieve the meaningful emission reduction necessary to fight climate change," Tillisch opined.
"The EWS-WWF programme will give lessons to individuals on going beyond the hour with simple daily actions such as setting air-conditioners to 24 instead of 22 degrees, washing cars with a bucket instead of using a hose, and switching lights to high efficiency bulbs," she added.
"Meanwhile, commercial establishments and organisations are advised to empower an environmental team and all employees to translate the earth hour message into on-going initiatives that reduce water and electricity consumption at work," elaborated Tillisch.
"With a simple flick of the switch and click of the mouse, individuals and organisations will be sending a signal that they want solutions to the climate crisis and they will be taking action. The climate change is the most urgent and pressing issue facing the entire world and we need to unite everyone around meaningful action to tackle it," she noted.
"Collective action of individuals and organisations can truly make a difference in converting the planet a sustainable place for the generations ahead," remarked Andy Ridley, co-founder and executive director of Earth Hour.
"Everyone has the power to make change. A CEO can change an organisation, a 7-year-old can change a classroom, and a president can change a country. This initiative is just the beginning," she noted. 
The Earth Hour was launched in Sydney, Australia in 2007, as two million people in one city switched off their lights and by 2010, over 128 countries participated, making it the largest voluntary action ever witnessed. 
Earth Hour Daily Environmental Tips
1- I keep my Air Conditioning set at 24 degrees and turn it off when I leave the house. It’s Cool!
2- I open my windows during the cool weather. Ahh Fresh Air! But, remember to close them when you leave the house in case a sandstorm appears.
3- I open the blinds and curtains to use natural light and turn off electric lights. It’s a bright idea, don’t you think?
4- I replaced all my light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs, I use ¼ the energy and save on my energy bill, more money for new shoes
5- I unplug all appliances when not in use; did you know appliances suck a lot of energy, even when not in use?
6- I turn on the water heater 30 minutes before I take my shower; there is no need to heat water 24/7.
7- When I leave my apartment I switch off the lights, TV and air-conditioning.
8- I hang my clothes to dry. Why use a dryer when you have the sun?
9- I fill the cup not the kettle when boiling water.
10- I put my computer to sleep when I go for meetings or lunch.
11- I only wash when I have a full load.
12- I leave my car at home and jump on the metro.
13- I bought a really cool solar powered mobile phone charger.
14- I eat less meat to reduce my ecological footprint.
15- I eat left-overs and try never to waste my food!
16- We installed motion sensing lights in our office.
17- I refill my water bottle instead of taking another plastic bottle that I know won’t be recycled.
18- I’m turning off my lights for Earth Hour and anytime I do not need them.
19-     I use candle light at dinner and turn off the lights.
20- Bye Bye hose! I wash my car with a bucket. Did you know desalinated water is extremely energy intensive?
21- My colleagues probably think I’m a geek, but I always ask that the last person to leave turns off all lights in the office.
22- My garden is watered at night, during the day most of it evaporates anyway.
23- I buy energy efficient appliances for my house.
24- My social gatherings are arranged outside when the weather is nice. My guests love picnics on the beach or in the park.
25- I unplug the computer when it is fully charged, it saves energy and it is good for the computer too.
26- I re-use stuff.
27- I cook with lids on the pans; it uses less energy and still tastes yummy.
28- My wardrobe is filled with sustainable fashion.
29- I use a broom when cleaning my driveway and patio instead of a hose. Its good exercise and wastes less.
(Pic Supplied) 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lankans from Libya go home

The Gulf Today, 8 March 2011

ABOUT 138 stranded Sri Lankan expatriates from troubled Libya arrived in Dubai International Airport a couple of days ago in a special chartered flight, were taken to Colombo on Monday by the Sri Lankan Government and their missions in the UAE. 
The Sri Lankan professionals, labourers and their families living in Libya were stranded in Tripoli for days. The government adopted prompt measures to evacuate them from the tumultuous land immediately via Dubai, a spokesperson of the Sri Lankan Consulate told The Gulf Today.
Consul General of Sri Lanka in Dubai MM Abdul Raheem said that the Sri Lankan expatriates, who were living and working in Libya, arrived in Dubai by a charter flight on March 5, and sent back to Sri Lanka on Monday.
“They will be received by the officials from the Ministry of External Affairs and the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment at the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo,” he added.
“The Sri Lanka Embassy in Libya and the Ministry of External Affairs coordinated with Sri Lankan missions in the UAE for the safe return of these Sri Lankans via Dubai to reach their motherland,” Raheem noted.
“Officials from the Consulate General of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan Airlines in Dubai met the visiting Sri Lankans at the Dubai Airport and facilitated their smooth transit to Colombo,” he said.
“Previously another batch of 54 and 35 Sri Lankans, who fled from Libya and went to Malta and Greece, arrived in Dubai airport and the officials of the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Dubai assisted them for their early return to Colombo,” he elaborated.
According to Raheem, the Sri Lankan Missions in the UAE and Libya will be in contact with their capital to expedite further evacuation of Sri Lankans affected by the Libyan crisis.