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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Qatar to study health and diet of its World Cup workers

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Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Peter Kovessy/Doha News

World Cup organizers are teaming up with medical experts in Qatar to examine and better understand the health of their workers.

Some 1,000 employees are being studied as part of a new pilot program launched in February by Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q).

The goal is to identify common health challenges such as high blood pressure, blood sugar issues and dehydration, and see if better nutrition can help, WCM-Q said in a statement.

Khalifa Stadium mess hall. Credit: Peter Kovessy/Doha News

After conducting health checks, the college will launch awareness campaigns to highlight the importance of balanced diets.

Working with contractors

It will also work with catering companies and contractors to recommend revised food options that take into account the health of the employees.

A detailed report will be sent to the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SCDL).

Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Reem Saad/Doha News

But they only employ a fraction of workers in Qatar, and the hope is that other companies in the country will also take the findings to heart, researchers said.

In a statement, Dr. Javaid I. Sheikh, Dean of WCM-Q, added:

“This initiative represents an exciting opportunity to tackle a global problem, that of nutritional deficiencies amongst migrant workers.

Through this initiative, we therefore not only hope to better understand the specific nutritional needs of workers in Qatar, but also to educate them about diet so they can pass this knowledge on to their families when they return home.”

Migrant health

According to the United Nations, health is a human right.

Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: SCDL

And expat workers particularly from developing countries face greater health risks than non-migrants.

This is for a variety of reasons, including that:

  • They may come from nations with poor health systems;
  • They work in industries that have higher occupational risks;
  • Health regulations are not strictly applied on the job; and
  • They may lack access to local health systems.

Developing preventative programs, such as the one WCM-Q is launching, is a good step toward ensuring worker well-being, the UN added.

Worker deaths

Such programs may also help Qatar officials address another problem that’s been on the rise — the so-called mysterious deaths of young construction workers.

In December, Al Jazeera reported that a rising number of Nepali expats around the world have been dying in their sleep or of heart attacks.

Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Reem Saad/Doha News

Many of the dead were young men who headed overseas to do physically demanding jobs in hot climates.

According to a former Nepal ambassador to Qatar, 55 percent of Nepali migrant workers deaths in Qatar are the result of “sudden” cardiac arrest.

Meanwhile, some 20 percent are from work-related accidents, 15 percent from traffic accidents and 10 percent from suicide, Suryanath Mishra said.

Speaking in 2015, he urged officials to “properly and urgently” investigate Nepali deaths in Doha. He added:

“In general, it is due to tension led by exploitation, adverse climate, poor working and living conditions and alcoholic intoxication.”

Numbers up for debate

Though nearly 90 percent of its population is comprised of foreigners, Qatar’s government does not publish annual breakdowns of migrant deaths.

However, according to figures that it shared with the UN earlier this year, only 35 expats were killed while on the job in 2016.

Al Wakrah stadium site. Credit: SCDL

That includes one Nepali man who was struck by a water tanker while working on the Al Wakrah Stadium site.

Meanwhile, some 547 people were seriously injured in falls, from mishaps with heavy equipment and “accidents involving a crush.”

The numbers do not take into account, however, the types of possibly health-related deaths that Mishra highlighted.

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