Love of iPads, computers making UAE 8th least active country in the world, says UNICEF

Published December 24th, 2013 - 09:15 GMT
According to a recent study conducted by UNICEF, the UAE is the 8th least active country in the world. (Getty/File)
According to a recent study conducted by UNICEF, the UAE is the 8th least active country in the world. (Getty/File)

The United Nations Childrens Fund (Unicef) said yesterday that it will step in to fight what it called “a critical increase in the rate of obesity among children” in the UAE.

Unicef launched yesterday a “School Health Education Project” to encourage students to lead a healthy lifestyle.

The UAE is considered the eighth least active country in the world with 62.5 per cent of adults failing to do enough physical exercise, according to the Lancet medical journal, in a list of 122 countries.

19% obese people

Unicef said one in every three children in the UAE suffers from obesity. According to the International Diabetes Federation, 19 per cent of the UAE’s population suffers from diabetes.

Dr Ibrahim Al Ziq, Gulf Area Representative for Unicef, said the organisation has entered into a partnership with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, SEHA ambulatory health services (SEHA) and Du to launch the programme.

We will start with a pilot project that will include 18 governmental schools, two from each emirate (one boy school and one girl school), where we will target students from grade six to nine because a global school health survey found that there is a high level of obesity in this particular age group,” said Al Ziq. The project will focus on raising awareness among children by providing training and increasing the capacity of school nurses in UAE schools, who will then be in charge of educating the children.

“Educating students is key, we hope to educate students and make sure that they have the tools needed to make the correct decisions when it comes to their health and lifestyle,” said Nasser Khalifa Al Budoor, director of Dubai Medical District at the Ministry of Health.

“We also hope to involve parents of students because they are their role models. We saw how His Highness Shaikh Mohammad (Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai) was riding a bike the other day, he was giving an example indirectly by leading by example, us adults should all follow in his foot steps,” he added.

Pilot project

The pilot project will begin on January 2014 by collecting student’s health data and analysing the current situation present in schools. In February nurse workshops and training will begin before the launch of the pilot programme.

Al Ziq added that after collecting feedback and making the needed changes, there will be a final meeting in November to finalise the programme that will be launched in all UAE schools — public and private.

He revealed that technology is the biggest challenge facing children in the UAE who have grown attached to their iPads and computers.

Al Ziq added that the project aims to raise awareness through innovative ways, instead of providing students with brochures and lectures.

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