WHO in Kuwait soon

Muna Al-Fuzai

The health ministry in Kuwait has begun official procedures for the opening of an office of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Kuwait in the next few weeks. This office will take decisions recommended by WHO that match the policies of the health ministry. This is good news for those who are concerned about public health in Kuwait.
I believe such an office in Kuwait will support health security, which is no less important than food or social security. Protecting the lives of people is important, especially since we are an open, mixed and young society with the possibility of the entry and exit of many people who may carry illnesses or diseases that might be contagious or dangerous, along with the prevalence of obesity. All these issues require an office here of the WHO.

I trust the presence of a WHO office will play a key role in following up these matters closely and prepare research to help in protecting Kuwait’s health in the short and long term. For example, Ministry of Health (MoH) Undersecretary Dr Mustafa Redha told Kuwait News Agency on Thursday that the ministry has taken all precautionary and urgent health measures to prevent the arrival of the Nipah virus from India to the country after it was detected in the southern state of Kerala. He added that the ministry is keen to prevent this virus from reaching Kuwait through coordination and communication with WHO specialists.

He said Nipah may cause severe illness in both animals and humans, and that the symptoms of the disease appear similar to the symptoms of influenza, such as high body temperature and headaches, and that the main treatment for the prevention of the disease lies in reducing the risk of transmission and intensive healthcare. The MoH is coordinating with the interior ministry and the General Authority for Food and Nutrition to prevent the arrival of the virus to Kuwait.

At the same time, a health official in India said on Thursday that two fatal cases of Nipah were confirmed in Kerala. In Kuwait, we have people coming and going from Kerala daily, and some of them are new laborers. Do they get checked on arrival at the airport or should we wait until all medical exams are done and then get to know if they are infected or sick? This I believe is an important issue now. I have no answer for it. But, I think an office of WHO can support and lead MoH on how to handle such cases when they appear.

Another example is the issue of obesity in Kuwait. It terrifies me when I see obese kids and teenagers with no effort by anyone to help them think twice about the impact of all this fat on their health. I don’t see actual parental or societal or school efforts in this regard.
In 2017, the dean of the Faculty of Public Health at the Medical Sciences Center at Kuwait University revealed some key info that we need to work on in a symposium titled “Obesity – the first enemy of public health in Kuwait” on the occasion of World Obesity Day. He said that the rates of obesity in Kuwait have reached frightening levels in adults and children alike according to statistics, and represent a real danger to the health of individuals and can cause chronic diseases that lead to death. He noted the importance of launching programs of action to end the phenomenon of obesity in the next 10 years to avoid the dangers facing the next generation.

I think he is absolutely right to make this call. He stressed the importance of awareness and communication to resolve this health problem through the development of regulatory and legal measures for the food market that contains products with high levels of saturated fat, salts and sugars, and called on parents, schools and decision makers to promote the eating of healthy foods through an early childhood diet, in addition to promoting physical activity. According to WHO, at least 2.8 million people die each year worldwide as a result of being overweight or obese.

These are two examples of urgent issues. I wish the health ministry speeds up the procedures of the office to raise awareness among the population and support the work of procedural research to change this rapid trend towards obesity – especially childhood obesity – and its integration in school curricula and environments to evaluate the situation. It should also learn how to deal with diseases and viruses from abroad, especially with new workers who may spend a long time here until the end of all medical checks. I personally wish to see MoH ban all outdoor advertisements for fast food, because it causes damage on the national level rather than boost sales among kids and teenagers.

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