Browsing 'Ministry of Public Health' News

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Food imports that don’t contain nutrition labels (with some exceptions) are now banned from entering Qatar, the country’s health ministry has announced.

The move comes seven months after Qatar adopted GSO 9:2013, a Gulf-wide regulation regarding prepackaged foodstuffs.

Importers were given a grace period to meet the new rules, which took effect Jan. 1, the Ministry of Public Health said in a statement this week.

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During the first phase of implementation, nutrition labels must be present on food in English, and eventually will be required in Arabic as well.

This information, which includes the number of calories in a serving and ingredients in the item, help promote healthy eating, the ministry explained.

Imports without these labels will be held until they meet the new requirements.

Exemptions

However, there are exceptions.

MOPH said that fresh vegetables, fruits, meat and fish that are imported as non-packaged items for sale are exempt from the labeling requirements.

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So are ingredients imported by businesses for use in kitchens and manufacturing.

Other exemptions include:

  • Prepackaged food items that are small (not exceeding 20 square cm);
  • Water in any kind of packaging; and
  • Food items imported for non-commercial use.

Labeling

Also last year, Qatar adopted a tougher stance on energy drinks, requiring them to be sold with warning labels.

The labels, which can be seen on drinks like Red Bull, caution pregnant or nursing women, children under the age of 16 years old, those with heart diseases and people allergic to caffeine against consuming the product.

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Additionally, energy drinks must now be sold separately from other products in the refrigerated beverages section of stores.

For years, authorities have also discussed requiring calorie counts to be displayed for foods sold in restaurants. But this has yet to become mandatory.

Thoughts?

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Following a Qatari woman’s death in childbirth this year, the country’s Public Prosecutor’s office has joined the fight to find answers.

Deeming other investigations thus far into the matter inadequate, officials there recently ordered a team of medical specialists to look into the death of Shorooq Al-Sulaiti.

She was admitted to the Women’s Hospital, run by Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC), with labor pains in May.

Women's Hospital

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Women’s Hospital

She died the following day at Hamad General Hospital of heart failure after the birth of her son via C-section.

A social media outcry led by Al-Sulaiti’s husband soon ensued over lack of information about what happened.

This prompted the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) to break its two months’ silence to finally confirm it was investigating the incident.

Missing details

However, a lawyer for the family recently told Al Raya that husband Ali Ghanim Al-Himaidi is still waiting for information from this probe, four months after Al-Sulaiti died.

Muhammad Majid al-Hajiri added that the state prosecutors have set up a committee of medical experts to review the situation.

Al-Hajiri described the medical report into Al-Sulaiti’s death as “flawed,” arguing that it was issued a long time after her death.

He also said that important information including her exact cause of death was missing.

Thoughts?

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Children between 12 months and 13 years old across Qatar will be given free Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccines next month as part of a national campaign.

The drive will run from Oct. 17 to Nov. 14, with the help of schools, health centers and the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH).

It will target some 280,000 children across the country as part of a global initiative to eradicate the highly infectious measles virus by 2020.

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According to officials, the move follows previous successful efforts to eliminate diphtheria and tetanus in Qatar, which haven’t been reported in the last five years.

In April, the ministry’s director of health protection and communicable diseases control Hamad Al Rumaihi said:

“The task that now confronts us is to eliminate measles. We have seen some sporadic cases in Qatar, most of which belong to children who have not received or completed their vaccinations.

Such cases are immediately spotted, monitored and reported to WHO.”

Where to get MMR

So far, public clinics and some private ones have already signed up to participate in the campaign.

Additionally, ministry officials will travel to schools to provide the vaccine, a MOPH representative told Doha News.

All schools in Qatar are currently being contacted to schedule next month’s vaccines on campus, the rep added.

Schools in turn are notifying parents of the drive.

For example, in a letter sent yesterday, Park House English School said the vaccine would be mandatory for students who had not received two doses of the MMR vaccine.

Exemptions will only be made for students with a medical certificate outlining the health reasons why a child cannot receive the vaccine, the school added.

Getting the vaccine

According to Qatar’s immunization schedule, MMR is usually administered at 12 months and at 18 months old.

The health ministry and Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC), which runs the publicly-funded health clinics in Qatar, announced the campaign earlier this summer.

They have yet to publicly issue the list of participating clinics, but some popular private health centers have already said they will be taking part.

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For example, the Feto-Maternal Center in Al Markhiya announced yesterday on its Facebook page that it would be offer the vaccine for free.

However, there may be a charge to see a pediatric doctor for a consultation beforehand.

Parents can make prior appointments for the vaccine by calling the clinic on 4475 6369 or 4475 6370, or emailing info@dohafmc.com.

Herd immunity

Tadawi Medical Center near Bin Omran is also planning to provide the free vaccines as part of the campaign.

Resident pediatrician Dr. Renu Angwin told Doha News why she believed parents should get children vaccinated.

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“Measles is still prevalent. It is highly contagious and it still causes deaths worldwide. It is important that we try to eradicate it,” she said, continuing:

“People should remember that herd immunity protects you to a certain extent but we are in Qatar and people travel – they go other countries where Measles is much more prevalent than it is here.

If a child isn’t vaccinated, they risk exposing that child to a really serious illness,” she said.

Appointments can be made by calling the center on 4041 4243.

In addition to the two standard doses of the MMR vaccine, a third dose will also be available as part of the campaign for children who are over two years old, if their parents wish them to have one, Angwin added.

What is measles?

Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus and it is one of the leading causes of death among young children, the World Health Organization (WHO) states.

The first sign of the virus is a high fever, which can last for about a week. This is followed by a rash, usually on the face and upper neck, which then spreads to reach the hands and feet. The rash fades after about five or six days.

Typical measles rash

Wikipedia

Typical measles rash

Most measles-related deaths result from complications arising from the disease such as blindness, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), severe diarrhea and respiratory infections.

There is no antiviral treatment for measles. As a result, WHO advocates comprehensive vaccination.

In 1980, before widespread vaccination, it caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths a year.

In 2014, this fell to 114,900 deaths globally. Between 2000 and 2014, the number of deaths as a result of measles fell by 79 percent, according to WHO figures.

By 2020, the organization aims to eliminate measles and rubella in at least five regions.

Thoughts?