Reporting from the storm: natural disasters in the Arab region

Reporting from the storm: natural disasters in the Arab region

Two days ago, flash floods in Saudi killed four people, with another 10 reported missing, and a further 1,357 having to be rescued by emergency services. Further east in Ras Al Khaimah, police recovered the body of a 22-year-old Emirati who was swept away by surging floodwater. As the severe rain and hail sweeping through the countries of the Gulf precariously pummel at my window in Muscat, I thought it an appropriate time to share a synopsis of a forthcoming report from the World Bank: “Natural Disasters in the Middle East and North Africa: A Regional Overview”. According to the working paper, the average number of natural disasters in MENA has tripled since the 1980s and the flood mortality risk continues to increase despite a global decrease since 2000. This increase likely owes to the interplay between climate change and rapid urbanization of coastal areas, which house the region’s largest cities and economies. Floods are identified as the most recurring hazard in the region, with the associated cost of recovery tripling since the 1970s In the 2008 floods in Hadramout and Al-Mahara, costs amounted to US$ 1.6 billion, equalling 6 percent of Yemen’s GDP. Similarly, the cost of the 2009 floods that occurred in Jeddah totaled US$ 2.16 billion. Given these figures and projections, alongside patterns in water shortages and drought, climatologists and United Nations specialists “suggest that MENA economies will be the second most affected by climate change.” These predictions underscore the importance of introducing and scaling up proactive disaster risk management strategies in the region. The paper notes recent, but slow, regional progress in this regard, and...
Tragedy on Oman’s roads: a call to action on the apalling toll of road traffic crashes

Tragedy on Oman’s roads: a call to action on the apalling toll of road traffic crashes

The Middle East and North Africa region accounts for 10% of the world’s road traffic deaths and has the second highest road traffic fatality rate among WHO regions after the African Region. Road traffic crashes (RTCs) kill on average 21.3 per 100,000 of population ever year, compared to the OECD average of 6.2 per 100,000.  Middle-income countries in MENA, like Oman, account for over 85% of the region’s road traffic deaths. This large share of traffic mortality poses a grave and growing problem which threatens to overwhelm health systems and undermine the achievement of Millennium Development Goals and public health gains of the past decades. Bernadette Millard is a lawyer and road safety expert from Oman. With over 10 years of experience campaigning for the protection of children in cars and safer roads for the country’s youth, she is an authority on the region’s traffic accidents and has produced a number of international award-winning road safety films in Arabic. For this year’s World Remembrance Day for Road Traffic Victims she provides an overview of Oman’s road traffic injury crisis and calls for action on tried and tested prevention strategies: From Remembrance to Action While many countries have succeeded in recent years in reducing death and injury rates from road traffic crashes, in Oman they have steadily escalated to a staggering 35.6 fatalities per 100,000 last year. The 2012 toll was an 8% increase over 2011 with 1056 dead and 11,437 injured, which in turn was a massive 28% increase in death and injury compared to 2010. Tragically, children and young people accounted for more than 1 in 5 deaths...

Journal Watch: Journal of Sexually Transmitted Infections publishes collection on the HIV epidemic in the Middle East and North Africa

[Adapted from the WHO EMRO Press Release] A dedicated supplement of key scientific studies on the HIV epidemic in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region was published earlier this month in the journal of Sexually Transmitted Infections. The studies provide critical evidence from the field on the status of the epidemic in the MENA region and showcase the progress of HIV research in this region over the last few years. The selection of published studies was based on originality and potential to impact policy and programming. The publication is the result of concerted efforts by a number of individuals and organizations for over two years. These efforts were spearheaded and funded by the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and North Africa Regional Support Team of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS MENA), and the Weill Cornell Medical College, Qatar. The set ofarticles start with a study describing the progress of HIV research in the MENA region since the discovery of the epidemic, and testifies to the achievements of recent years. This is followed by a study of HIV surveillance systems that demonstrates the successes of a few countries and exposes the limited progress in most countries. The supplement also includes surveillance studies from Sudan, Pakistan, Islamic Republic of Iran, Morocco and Qatar. The studies establish the extent to which HIV and other sexually transmitted infections have affected different populations, and most of these are among the very first such studies in their respective countries. The investigations show that the HIV epidemic is a reality among different population groups, such...

Journal Watch: International Psychiatry

 International Psychiatry 10 (4), November 2013 From the latest edition of International Psychiatry comes six papers on mental health in the Middle East. Guest editorial from Suhaila Ghuloum looks at “Gender differences in mental health in the Middle East”. The article stresses the importance of considering the “impact of gender-based discrimination and violence on mental health service delivery” within the Middle Eastern context. Jude U. Ohaeri and Ghenaim A. Al-Fayez revisit their previous work on child abuse in Kuwait, to focus specifically on child sexual abuse. Analysis of data from a nationwide sample of senior high school students found that 8.6% reported being sexually attacked, 5.9% had experienced someone threatening to have sex with them, 15.3% had experienced unwanted sexual exposure, and 17.4% had had someone touch their sexual parts. In the majority of cases the perpetrators were members of extended family. Interestingly no stark gender difference were found in experiences of child abuse. In both these articles, notions of preserving family honour and avoiding stigma were cited as barriers to mental health care in the Arab context. The edition includes two mental health law profiles looking at national mental health legislation in Qatar and Jordan. Also in this issue, Mohammed J. Abbas, Amir Fadhil Al Haidary, and Sabah Alghanimy present findings from an assessment of the prevalence rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and subthreshold PTSD (SPTSD) in survivors of two suicide bombings in Karbala, Iraq. Of the 258 survivors, 43.4% had PTSD and 22.9% had SPTSD. They found that PTSD was more prevalent after the incident that involved more civilian deaths. Rounding up the issue is a special paper Yasir Abbasi and Adel Omrani that takes a historical look at...