Gaza nurses honoured

Five nurses from The St John Ophthalmic Outpatient Clinic and Cataract Day Case Surgical Centre in Gaza have been awarded the 2006 Human Rights and Nursing Awards in recognition of their extraordinary work in difficult circumstances to ensure that the people of the Gaza Strip receive ophthalmic nursing and cataract surgery of the highest possible standard.

The awards were announced at the 2006 Globalisation of Nursing: ethical, legal and political conference held at the University of Surrey, UK.

As the nurses, Hanan Zaalan, Fouad Najjar, Ghazi El Baba, Mohamed Barakat and Abdallah El Baba were unable to travel to the conference as planned, the award was received on their behalf by Jackie Jaidy of the St John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem, of which the Gaza-based clinic is an outpost.

Jackie commented that she was “very happy to receive the award on their behalf, but very sad that they are unable to be here to collect it themselves”. She said they had been given the award to honour them for their continued work under great duress and great restrictions to both their daily and working lives.

She added that “the fact they can not be here to receive the award is indicative of the duress and restrictions that they face”. Professor Anne Davis, International President of the International Centre for Nursing Ethics presented the awards on behalf of ICNE.

The recipients, who will each receive a certificate, an engraved glass bowl and a personal cheque for US$3,000, were congratulated on their determination to continue to provide nursing care to the population of Gaza despite difficulties in sourcing equipment, and in some cases even getting into work.

Dr Verena Tschudin, Director of ICNE, said: “Nowadays, it is impossible to do almost anything without considering the ethics of it. “This is particularly true in nursing, which is more than just a job; it is also a moral endeavour.

Therefore, morality and ethics are a large part of any nursing role and should be recognised as such.” The awards are presented to any nurse in recognition of an outstanding commitment to human rights and exemplifying the essence of nursing’s philosophy of humanity.

As the nominations for the award are open to all nurse practitioners and the winners are chosen by an international committee, this award is unique in the field of nursing.

Dubai HCV campaign

As part of its ongoing commitment to public health awareness, Al Noor Hospital in Dubai has released the results from the first of a four-month Hepatitis C screening campaign, which is being offered for free.

Out of 180 patients screened, 12 tested positive with the preliminary test and came back for a second test to confirm the diagnosis.

Final results showed that eight of the 180 patients screened tested positive for Hepatitis C.

Dr Ali Sayed, Hepatologist, Al Noor Hospital, adds: “Waiting for the development of symptoms before testing for HCV infection is likely to result in more advanced liver disease and a lower likelihood of successful therapy.

“The lack of symptoms following infection does not mean that the disease is inactive. Early detection and treatment of HCV is the most effective measure to decrease the likelihood of disease progression, and save lives.”

Dr Amal Abdel Majeed, Pathologist at Al Noor hospital said most of those infected are unaware of their infection which is why the hospital embarked on this campaign. The hepatitis C test is generally not part of routine a check-up.

According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 300 million people worldwide are infected with HCV of which 170 million are chronically infected, with an additional three to four million people newly infected each year.

Baghdad body count

In July the Baghdad mortuary received 1,855 bodies – the highest number of civilian deaths in a month to date, according to media reports in August.

BBC News online quoted officials as saying that about 90% of the deaths were due to injuries as a result of violence.

Dr Abdul Razzaq al- Obaidi, morgue assistant manager, told Reuters: “Most of the cases have gunshot wounds to the head. Some of them were strangled and others were beaten to death with clubs.”

The morgue’s monthly toll for 2006:
January: 1,068
February: 1,110
March: 1,294
April: 1,155
May: 1,398
June: 1,500
July: 1,855

About 80% of the bodies are unidentified. Due to lack of space at the mortuary bodies are taken away by the truckload for mass burial, according to BBC News online.

UAE arthritis foundation

The Emirates Arthritis Foundation (EAF) has launched the UAE’s first Arthritis Support Programme.

The inaugural meetings, sponsored by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, are scheduled to take place in September in a series of one and a half hour sessions. The support programme will be dedicated to providing education on arthritis and establishing a platform for sufferers to meet regularly and share experiences.

The Emirates Arthritis Foundation was launched under the patronage of her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai and the Dubai Bone and Joint Center.

For further information email:

Basra garbage

Children who play in piles of rotting garbage throughout the city of Basra, some 550km south of Baghdad, are increasingly suffering from typhoid fever as well as fungal and bacterial skin diseases, doctors told IRIN News in August.

Up to 15 children per week come to the Children’s Hospital of Basra with diseases related to their contact with accumulated garbage, Dr Hussein Ashayri, clinician at the Children’s Hospital of Basra, said.

Two children recently died from infections caused by cuts on their body while playing with garbage, he said. “Some children even eat food found in the garbage, and others usually do not wash their hands after playing with it,” Dr Ashayri said.

In the past, garbage bags were collected daily from the doorsteps of residents, but residents say Basra’s municipality has been reduced to weekly pickups or even less often in the suburbs.

The garbage piles up in mounds, and the stench wafts through the streets. The city’s 1.5 million residents now must search for empty areas to leave their garbage.

Locals have started to burn the accumulated garbage in their gardens or on street corners to prevent the spread of disease. However, the smoke from the burning garbage led to children having respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis, Dr Ashayri said.

Bahrain cytomegalovirus

The Gulf Daily News reports (14 August) that a study on a viral condition that typically affects about 10% of children born in Bahrain – and can be fatal if untreated – is now underway at the Arabian Gulf University's (AGU) College of Medicine’s Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases Department.

The two-year study, on the Cytomegalovirus (CMV) viral infection is being funded by the Bahrain Islamic Bank.

Dr Abdul Rahman Yousif Ismail, AGU associate professor, was quoted as saying that in spite of the advances in health care, this infection continues to cause disease and death among newly-born babies. “Studies have shown that this virus is contracted through the umbilical cord, during pregnancy and through breastfeeding. “It has also been found that between 40% and 90% of infected women produce this virus through their breast milk.

“This virus is also contracted through blood transfusion in some cases.” He told Gulf Daily News that in Bahrain, about 85% of pregnant women have antibodies against this virus in their blood. “However, there are no official statistics about the levels of the spread of such disease among the newborn and blood quantities kept at the Blood Bank are not examined to ensure that they are free of this virus.”

Abu Dhabi diabetes centre

Abu Dhabi’s new state-ofthe- art diabetes centre was officially opened in August by His Highness Sheikh Suroor Bin Mohammed Al Nahyan. Known as the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), the UAE’s largest multidisciplinary diabetes facility will be dedicated to prevention, treatment, training and research.

It will cover all aspects of diabetes and its complications. It is estimated that more than a quarter of UAE nationals suffer from diabetes and one of the aims of the center is to research, manage and reverse this alarming trend.

Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, managing director and CEO of Mubadala Development, the owner of the center, and ICLDC chairman, said at the opening ceremony: “Whilst the last year has seen us work incredibly hard with Imperial College London to bring the centre to fruition, today’s ceremony actually marks the beginning of our real work in improving diabetes prevention in the UAE and providing solutions to patients and their families living with diabetes.”

The architecturally striking ICLDC building is based on the geometrical structure of an insulin molecule. The treatment centre hosts an extensive team of specialised staff and the research facility, headed by renowned Imperial College London researchers, will focus on reversing the high prevalence of diabetes in the UAE and the region and keep doctors updated with the latest developments. For further information visit:

West Bank embargo

A 13 August IRIN News report from Nablus, Palestine, says that five months after an international embargo was imposed on the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), the West Bank is facing a health crisis as pharmaceuticals and medical supplies become increasingly scarce.

“We’re facing severe shortages of 13 important drugs,” said Dr Lou'ay Shaheen, head of the cancer ward at the National Hospital in Nablus. “In the past two weeks, nine of these drugs were made available, but quantities still aren’t sufficient for all the patients.”

The trade embargo followed the democratic election of a Hamas-led government in February. Hamas is considered a terrorist organisation by Australia, Canada, the European Union, Israel, and the United States, and is banned in Jordan.

While the embargo does not prevent the importing of food or medicines, it has delayed supplies from reaching the West Bank as all entry points, which are controlled by Israeli authorities, have been tightened.

Nevertheless, initiatives by humanitarian agencies to meet the needs of West Bank residents are ongoing. “We are visiting hospitals, clinics and pharmacies in the West Bank in order to assess their requirements for medicine and medicinal supplies,” said Dr Fathy Abu Mughli, manager of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Health Programme in the West Bank.

“Based on these visits, we will prepare a report and present it in a meeting in Jerusalem with some of the donor countries, international banks, Unicef, UN HABITAT [UN Human Settlements Programme], Care International and MSF,” he added.

Dr Abu Mughli said that the primary purpose of this meeting would be to secure the provision of emergency medicinal supplies, operation room supplies and medicine for cancer and kidney treatment.

Meanwhile, the ordinary people of the West Bank continue to suffer the brunt of the embargo. According to Deputy Health Minister Dr Anan al-Masri, more than 90 different types of drugs and medical materials are not available because of the blockade, including intravenous solutions, anaesthetics and blood tests for HIV and Hepatitis B. In addition, Xray films, printing ink and hospital stationery are in short supply.

Doctors at the National Hospital in Nablus, the only hospital in the northern West Bank to offer cancer treatment, were recently forced to cancel chemotherapy programmes due to a severe shortage of drugs. “A number of cancer patients died during the past four months as a result of incomplete treatment,” one medical specialist, who wished to remain anonymous, told IRIN News.

Other hospitals in the territory are faring no better. Dr Hussam al- Jawhari, head of the Rafidia Government Hospital in Nablus, was pessimistic: “If the situation continues, we’ll be able to treat emergency cases only.”

Iran chemical war

Iranian civilians exposed to high-intensity warfare and chemical weapons are experiencing significantly higher levels of psychological distress compared to those exposed to low-intensity warfare but not chemical weapons, researchers at Yale School of Medicine report in the 2 August issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association devoted to the theme of violence and human rights.

The research was based on data collected in July 2004 on 153 civilians in three towns bordering Iran and Iraq by researchers in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health (EPH) at Yale School of Medicine, the Department of Psychiatry and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System.

The team, led by EPH research associate Farnoosh Hashemian, conducted a crosssectional randomised study to measure civilian trauma during the Iran- Iraq war, which lasted from 1980 to 1988, caused one million casualties on both sides and 60,000 chemical warfare survivors in Iran.

While much is known about the physical consequences of chemical warfare, the researchers sought to document the long-term effects of chemical attacks on mental health. During two months in Iran, the team examined war-related mental health problems in three towns.

One town was exposed to conventional low-intensity warfare, another was exposed to high-intensity warfare and the third, Sardasht, was exposed to both high-intensity warfare and chemical warfare.

The team conducted 90-minute face-to-face interviews with residents and measured post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. Those who were exposed to both high-intensity warfare and chemical weapons had significantly higher mental health disorders than did residents of the other two towns. Fiftynine percent of Sardasht residents were found to have experienced PTSD in their lifetime.

Thirty-three percent were currently suffering from PTSD, 65% reported major anxiety symptoms and 41% had severe depressive symptoms. The study showed that depression, anxiety and PTSD are also prevalent among residents in the high-intensity warfare town.

Thirty-one percent had lifetime PTSD, eight percent had current PTSD, 25% had major anxiety symptoms and 12% had severe depressive symptoms.

“Our results highlight the importance of examining long-term mental health problems in communities affected by war, particularly in those exposed to chemical weapons,” said Hashemian, who was herself raised in Iran and witnessed the suffering caused by war and chemical warfare.

“Survivors of chemical warfare need access to a variety of resources to recover from the trauma that happened 17 years ago. We hope this study raises awareness about the horrifying effects of the use of chemical weaponry and demonstrates the urgent need for a stronger international commitment to destruction of such weapons.” Hashemian said that at the time of the mustard gas attack, the residents assumed it was another conventional weapon bombardment.

In a few hours, however, people experienced temporary blindness, shortness of breath, coughing, vomiting and severe blisters. Serious skin burns, eye damage and respiratory symptoms are the most common chronic health problems experienced by survivors of chemical warfare.

“These physical wounds are being treated in those who survived, but now we have to focus our attention on treating the mental wounds,” she said. The study appears in: JAMA, Vol. 296 No. 5, (2 August 2006).

Smoking banned

The Bahraini health ministry has completely banned smoking in its offices a full 12 years after first issuing a notification on the decision.

Gulf Daily News reports that the implementation had been considered necessary after Bahrain indicated its intention to become a signatory to the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention for Tobacco Control.

The report quoted a health ministry spokesman as saying designated areas would be created 'within time' for smokers until when they would be required to step outside the building to smoke.

Yemen’s fake drugs

IRIN News reports from Sana’a, Yemen, that poverty is pushing patients towards cheaper counterfeit medicines, many of which have passed their expiry dates and pose a health hazard. “Poor patients are at risk from using expired and fake medicines,” said Dr Hashem al-Zain, World Health Organisation representative in Yemen.

Dr Al- Zain added that almost all counterfeit drugs – which are considerably cheaper than drugs manufactured in the West – are smuggled into the country, mostly from India and China.

According to health workers, however, most of these cheaper imitation drugs have not been tested in laboratories and, if they are genuine, have often passed their expiry dates.

Additionally, they seldom meet international standards for proper storage. According to Mohammed al-Asali, a member of the parliamentary health committee, about 70% of the drugs available in Yemen are contraband. “There is no quality control checking,” he said.

According to some health experts, smuggled medicines mainly enter the country from the Horn of Africa, particularly Djibouti, from where they are brought by sea to the Yemeni coast. Yemen spends about US$117m a year on medicines, according to the country’s Supreme Drugs Authority.

Most of this is spent on importing medicines from 50 countries through 400 importers, as the local pharmaceutical plants produce only 17% of Yemen’s requirements. Local pharmaceutical producers complain that counterfeit drugs are killing their business.

Abdulhakeem Shawkat, executive manager of Yemeni Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Union said part of the problem was the absence of a legal provision proscribing dealings in counterfeit medicines. In an effort to eradicate the trend, local authorities in various parts of the country have recently seized and destroyed large quantities of counterfeit drugs and medicines.

“Fifteen tonnes of fake and smuggled medicines were seized in the Haradh district, Sana'a International Airport, Hudaidah Airport and in the Aden and Taiz governorates,” said Adel Humaid, head of the Drug Monitoring Department at the Ministry of Health’s Higher Authority for Medicine.

Thai hospital A Dh300-million, 250-bed, Thaiinfluenced hospital is to be built in Dubai. Phase one of the Bumrungrad Hospital - Dubai is expected to be complete by 2008, according to a report in the Khaleej Times.

The 125-bed phase one part of the hospital will provide family medicine, paediatric care and occupational health. Phase two will provide cardiology, cancer, physiotherapy and rehabilitation services. The hospital is being developed under a partnership between Bumrungrad International and Ishtitmar PJSC, a Dubai-based investment house.

Bumrungrad International is a wholly owned subsidiary of Thailand-based Bumrungrad Hospital Public Company.

Saudi health insurance

The Khaleej Times (29 August) and Arab News (26 August) report that some 13 insurance companies are expected to get a licence for operating in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia following the return of files by the Council of Ministers to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) to complete legal procedures.

Mousa Al-Rubaiaan, chairman of the National Insurance Committee, an affiliate of the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry, was quoted as saying: “Owners of insurance companies that have applied for the licence are awaiting a Cabinet decision on the matter within a short period.” Meanwhile, an Arab News report quotes KSA Health Minister Dr Hamad Al- Manie as saying that seven million expatriates in the Kingdom would come under the cooperative health insurance scheme by the end of this year.

The scheme, introduced in June last year, makes health insurance mandatory for expatriates working in the country. The newspaper says, according to an economic report issued by National Commercial Bank (NCB), the Kingdom’s co-operative health insurance scheme would fetch SR30 billion (about US$8bn) in investment

New hospital

The UAE federal health authorities are putting final touches to a plan to set up Shaikh Khalifah Hospital in Ras Al Khaimah.

The Dh600-million (about US$163m) hospital is aimed at providing comprehensive, state-of-the-art health services.

“Work is afoot to give the green light to start the construction work,” Humaid Mohammed Obaid Al Qatami, UAE Minister of Health told media. The emirate has only two main hospitals – Saqer Hospital and Saif bin Qwbash Hospital, which are no longer able to meet the healthcare needs of the emirate’s growing population.  


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