Diseases Impacting BahrainBahrain, a nation renowned for its pearl industry and abundant date palms, has experienced a recent rise in wealth inequality and poverty. In 2021, ESCWA (Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia) reported that 7.5% of Bahrain’s population lived below the poverty line, a rise from 6.8% in 2010.

Alongside poverty, the incidence of diseases impacting Bahrain has also surged. Multiple factors contribute to the spread and development of diseases in Bahrain, necessitating investments in disease management measures to mitigate potential long-term health and economic repercussions.

Disease Statistics in Bahrain

According to a 2020 report by the Bahrain Ministry of Health, the United Nations and its partners, non-communicable diseases account for approximately 75% of all deaths in Bahrain, translating to around 2,000 people annually. Furthermore, nearly one in five adults in Bahrain succumb to non-communicable diseases before reaching the age of 70.

The predominant disease affecting Bahrain is cardiovascular disease, responsible for about 49% of non-communicable disease-related deaths. Additionally, cancer and diabetes also have a significant presence, causing 18% and 3% of deaths, respectively.

Causes of Disease

It is widely acknowledged that smoking is a cause and aggravator of several diseases. About 15% of Bahrain’s adult population engages in daily tobacco product consumption. In 2015, 17.7% of children aged 13 to 15 were tobacco users and nearly half of all Bahraini children were exposed to second-hand smoke in public spaces.

Insufficient physical activity also contributes to the diseases affecting Bahrain, with just over half of the population reporting activity levels below the recommended standard. Unhealthy dietary habits, coupled with a high percentage (72.4%) of overweight or obese individuals, have further exacerbated disease development. Poverty-stricken communities often struggle to afford nutritious food and opt for inexpensive, processed, sugary and nutrient-deficient alternatives. Consequently, those living in poverty are more susceptible to obesity, diabetes and other diet-related diseases.

The 2020 report also says that poor environmental conditions throughout the nation provoke the onset of health conditions. Bahrain’s climate is very hot, with temperatures reaching upward of 120 degrees Fahrenheit for more than half of the year. High temperatures worsen pre-existing conditions and impede outdoor physical activity. Additionally, the capital city, Manama, suffers from alarming air pollution levels, surpassing the World Health Organization’s recommended PM2.5 exposure limit by over six times. The report highlights that air pollution escalates the risk of non-communicable diseases such as “ischaemic heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancers.”

Making Progress

A new government-subsidized health insurance plan was implemented in Bahrain in 2019, extending coverage to all nationals. The country is also augmenting its health care infrastructure, with an influx of health facilities annually. Under a trade agreement, the United States supplies a range of health care products to Bahrain.

Bahrain’s largest health infrastructure project is currently in the works. The $1 billion hospital, called the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Medical City, will include four research centers, 300 beds and a medical college. New improvements like this will increase the ability of Bahrain to provide health services to its citizens, therefore better addressing some of the common diseases like heart disease, cancer and obesity.

Over the past years, several cities in Bahrain have earned the “Healthy City” designation from the WHO. Um Alhassam achieved this recognition in 2018, followed by Manama. These cities were lauded by the WHO for their commitment to enhancing health care and prioritizing public health initiatives.

The prevalence of tobacco smoking is also on the decline throughout the nation. Survey data from the WHO has shown a decrease of about 2% in the total number of adults who smoke tobacco daily since 2009. Students in Bahrain have also shown opposition to smoking, with 75.5% in favor of prohibiting indoor smoking in public places.

Overall, Bahrain has shown that it is a country committed to improving the health of its citizens. Despite the grim statistics, the country is on a solid path to reducing the prevalence and severity of the diseases impacting Bahrain.

– Tristan Weisenbach
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in BahrainThe stigma surrounding mental health often prevents people from seeking the help they so desperately need. The state of mental health impacts everyday life, for most people this can be good or bad. In Bahrain, over the years, there has been an improvement in the available mental health services. Greater efforts are being made to improve education and reduce the mental health stigma.

Mental Health in Numbers

Looking at the statistics for mental health in Bahrain, 4.9% of people have anxiety disorders and 4.5% have depression. A study conducted in 2010 found that 19.3% of patients in primary care centers had lifetime depression and 5.6% had current depression. Of those who suffered from a mental illness in the past, only 41% had received treatment. Here lies the primary issue—seeking help.

Bahrain is one of three countries in the Gulf that had more than 30 psychiatric beds (33.8) per 100,000 individuals in 2007. In the 2011 WHO-AIMS report, Bahrain reported having only one mental health hospital, at the Salmaniya Medical Complex in the country’s capital, Manama. One of the key values of the psychiatric hospital is ‘personal responsibility’—encouraging a sense of responsibility through increasing awareness and education regarding mental health. Reducing poor mental health in Bahrain through improving education and awareness is a primary way more people can not only take care of their mental health but also reduce stigma around mental health and its treatment.

In 2015, psychiatrists conducted a study evaluating the pattern of mental health disorders in Bahrain. The results revealed that people with poor education and low income had the highest risk of developing mental illness. The results further showed that over 30% of the participants were from social class 5 (with primary school level education or less, unskilled workers or unemployed). In addition, over 42% were from social class 4 (with education less than high school but more than primary school level, working class, semi-skilled and skilled). While the reasons behind these statistics were not investigated, the World Health Organization has labeled poverty as the primary cause of global suffering, including poor mental health.

The Prevailing Stigma

Some can view struggling with mental health as a test from God or a sign of a weak connection with God. This sometimes prevents people from seeking help from medical and psychological professionals, believing the answer to their mental health struggles is to pray. While prayer can definitely offer comfort, seeking help is also very important.

In an interview with the Daily Tribune, News of Bahrain in December 2022, licensed psychologist Dr. Mariam Alammadi explains that she has witnessed an increase in the number of people seeking help. She believes there has been a shift in the general attitude toward mental health in Bahrain, with the stigma surrounding it slowly diminishing.

Help for People in Bahrain

The past few years have seen an improvement in the resources available and organizations dedicated to educating the public on mental health in Bahrain. One such organization is the Bahrain Red Crescent Society (BRCS), a charity founded in 1971. Alongside its other admirable work, BRCS strives to provide psychological support to citizens. The organization provides a training program in psychological first aid, holds workshops on mental health in Bahrain as well as elsewhere in the Gulf and continues its “Your Mental Health Matters” initiative. The latest training program was attended by 67 participants and aimed to enhance the capability of volunteers and staff in providing psychological care to those in need before, during and after disasters and crises. The participants’ test score rate improved from 60% before the training to 90% after the training, demonstrating the benefit of the program.

The Instagram account @unknotted.bh is another nonprofit community organization that provides free support group sessions for mental health, making help more accessible for those suffering but who cannot afford to seek treatment elsewhere. It also uploads informative, educational posts that aim to educate people on mental health and shares advice on how to deal with others’ mental health as well as one’s own. The posts are in both Arabic and English, thus making the resources accessible to a wider audience.

Fighting for a Promising Future

BRCS and @unknotted.bh are just two nonprofit organizations working tirelessly to improve mental health in Bahrain through better education. These organizations are fighting to end the stigma surrounding mental health treatment in Bahrain. Hopefully, by progressively reaching a wider audience, these organizations and others can make people more comfortable asking for help, thereby reducing the number of people that suffer as a result of not seeking treatment.

– Sheherazade Al Shahry
Photo: Unsplash

Fragility and Rule of Law in Bahrain
The 2011 protests in the capital of Bahrain, Manama, threatened to divide an already divisive nation. Questioning the state’s fragility and rule of law in Bahrain, the 2011 Bahraini uprising as many now call it, was a historic day in the nation of Bahrain. The majority of the Shia population in Bahrain initiated the protests that became so untenable for the kingdom that around 1,000 Saudi troops deployed in the nation at the ruling Al Khalifa family’s request.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators who protested all across Bahrain disputed the Al Khalifa family’s strong control of power and alleged discrimination against the nation’s majority Shia population. Clearly questioning the fragility and rule of law in Bahrain, the protesters appeared fed up with the continuing human rights crisis in the country and the lack of democratic reforms that the government promised back in the 2001 referendum for the National Action Charter.

A Propped-Up Government

A small archipelago, Bahrain has a small GDP of almost $39 billion in 2021 in comparison to its neighbors. The GDP of Saudi Arabia equaled $833 billion in 2021 whereas the UAE’s GDP sat at $415 billion in 2021.

The Middle East has a variety of governments varying in nature and function. However, unlike other areas of the world, nations such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, the UAE and Kuwait have royal families who still control most of the power in their respective nations, all of whom are Sunni Muslims. Bahrain is no different — the House of Khalifa is the ruling family of the Kingdom of Bahrain. The only major difference between Bahrain and the other kingdoms or emirates is that Bahrain has a majority Shia population.

For the Al Khalifa’s neighboring royal families, the main source of income is oil exportation. Nations such as the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia largely nationalized oil. Therefore, tax revenue is only a small percentage of the nations’ overall revenue. This allows for the ruling royal families to significantly lower the tax burden for their populations. Having income tax is not popular in the Gulf region. This largely explains how undemocratic regimes have held onto power for so long. The trade-off is that the population is able to prosper due to the low tax, keeping the population happy and the undemocratic royal family keeps power.

Oil-Dependent Economy

Unfortunately for the Bahraini royal family, Bahrain has been unable to diversify its economy. Bahrain’s dependence on selling oil has resulted in a shaky economy, meaning that when the oil prices dip, the Bahraini deficit grows at an alarming rate.

Unlike its neighbors, Bahrain has a significant deficit. The experts expected the Bahraini economy to contract in 2020 due to lower-than-expected oil prices. According to Reuters, Bahrain’s public debt climbed to 133% of its GDP in 2020.

The problem with this is, unlike other ruling royal families, the Al Khalifa family cannot continue to offer its population big benefits and low taxes to keep the population happy and keep themselves in power as Bahrain’s economy could eventually collapse. But, Bahrain has received significant financial backing from neighboring countries. Gulf nations such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have sent aid packages in the region of $10 billion to facilitate Bahrain’s growing expenses in 2018.

Without the support of Bahrain’s neighbors, both financially and militarily, the royal family of Bahrain may have been unable to cling to power for so long.

Human Rights in Bahrain

Desperate to keep power in Bahrain, the Al Khalifa family has continued to commit many serious human rights violations in the nation. These violations include torture, suppression of expression and denying the right to assembly. According to Amnesty International, reports note many cases of torture in state detention centers. Authorities commonly use torture methods such as sleep deprivation, threats of execution and beatings.

Bahrain has allowed impunity. Though the Bahraini Special Investigation Unit has received reports of torture, it has failed to report on the number of incidents and did not fully report the outcomes of such cases. After the 2011 protests, authorities detained many peaceful protesters and tried and sentenced them to life in prison in some cases.

Health and hygiene conditions in Bahraini prisons have remained a serious cause for concern. Human Rights Watch (HRW) states that up to three detainees have died in Bahraini prisons amid claims of medical negligence.

Freedom of expression and assembly remain limited, authorities often arrest protesters and independent media and prominent opposition groups remain outlawed. Authorities arrested at least 58 people for online activities that go against Bahrain’s restricted online content laws.

Looking Ahead

As it stands, the backing from other Gulf countries means it is unlikely that the Al Khalifa Royal family will be leaving positions of power within the government despite large portions of the population questioning the fragility and rule of law in Bahrain. This becomes unfortunate for the Shia majority population who wish to see more equality in positions of power between Shia and Sunni groups. With the Bahraini royal family continuing to get support from its neighbors, the human rights crisis in the nation may take longer to reach a resolution.

Fortunately, a number of nonprofit organizations aim to make a difference in Bahrain. The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) is a nonprofit focusing on advocacy, education and awareness for the calls for democracy and human rights in Bahrain. BIRD has worked “by engaging with victims of human rights abuse in Bahrain and providing them recourse to aid and justice.” The organization also “engages with key international actors and governments to advocate for policies that encourage human rights in Bahrain.” Its mission is to “promote human rights and effective accountability in Bahrain.”

The efforts of organizations ensure that human rights are upheld amid fragility in Bahrain.

– Josef Whitehead
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Bahrain
Just like many other countries in the world, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Bahrain was considerable. The nation’s GDP shrank 6.9% due to the pandemic during the third quarter of 2020 when compared with 2019. In comparison to other Gulf states, Bahrain performed slightly worse as Qatar had an economic output of -3.7% and the UAE’s economy shrank by 6.1% in 2020. Though there are no definitive poverty estimations, other indicators point toward an overall increase in poverty in Bahrain during the pandemic.

Reaction to COVID-19

During its worst period, daily new COVID-19 cases in Bahrain rose to 8,000 at the start of February 2022. Bahrain had more than 60,000 active cases by February 7, 2022. As of February 12, 2023, Bahrain has suffered a total of 700,835 COVID-19 cases and 1,544 COVID-19 deaths.

Just like many other governments around the world, Bahrain implemented lockdowns as a countermeasure to the rising COVID-19 infections. By choosing this method to curb the COVID-19 cases in the country, the government of Bahrain effectively brought the country to a standstill. The government halted/restricted the activity of shopping malls, restaurants and cafes, gyms, cinemas, sports events and more.

As a result, both consumption and production in Bahrain dropped. Bahrain’s trade during COVID-19 declined considerably. In fact, “trade with the largest economy in the region,” Saudi Arabia, decreased by 2.1% within the “first nine months of 2020.” Furthermore, trade with Kuwait and the UAE dropped by 15.4% and 21% respectively.

With Bahrain’s unemployment rising to 9.4% in 2020, the government announced an economic stimulus package in March 2020 worth 4.3 billion Bahraini dinars to support the country’s citizens due to the effects of the lockdowns.

The government aimed to keep the private sector afloat and ensure employees continued to receive their salaries for three months. The stimulus package also covered the cost of electricity and water bills for three months and absolved all tourism-related businesses from tourism levies, among other measures. Overall, the stimulus package aimed to reduce the potential increase in poverty in Bahrain due to COVID-19. However, financial worries for Bahrain due to the economic impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Bahrain led to more financial aid from fellow Gulf Arab states Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE.

Oil Dependency

As a Gulf State, it comes as no surprise that Bahrain has significant oil reserves. However, unlike other nations in the Middle East, Bahrain has not diversified its economy. While significant effort went into reducing Bahrain’s dependence on oil prices, oil and gas revenue still accounted for about 75% of government funds in 2016.

Oil prices fluctuate regularly, and as a result, the Bahraini economy has struggled when oil prices drop. The result has been an irregular growth in Bahrain’s budget deficit. The impact of COVID-19 exacerbated Bahrain’s circumstances and the World Bank stated, “lower oil prices since 2014 had widened fiscal and external imbalances and intensified macroeconomic vulnerabilities.”

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent financial impact, Bahrain announced drastic spending cuts in April 2020. According to Al Jazeera, the Gulf Island cut expenditure by up to 30% across ministries and government agencies. Cuts across the board at the government level can affect those on lower incomes more than any other section of the population as many rely on government-run social safety nets to stay financially afloat.

Poverty in Bahrain

Though no official poverty estimates exist that would indicate an increase in impoverishment in Bahrain amid the pandemic, a UNDP “Assessment of the Socio-economic Impacts of COVID-19 on Bahrain” shows a decline in living standards, indicative of poverty. A survey shows that Bahrainis and Bangladeshis living in Bahrain “suffered considerable amounts of self-reported economic distress, in the form of job losses and decreased income.”

However, positively, Bahrain’s unemployment rate reduced from 7.7% in 2021 to 5.4% in 2022. In comparison to other Arab nations, Saudi Arabia’s unemployment rate rose to 9.9% in 2022 and the UAE’s unemployment rate rose to 3.4% in 2021.

Bahrain’s ongoing oil dependence and the effects of government-imposed restrictions during COVID-19 have led to economic instability in the nation. The Bahraini government’s decision to add roughly $470 million to its budget in 2020 to cover potential emergency pandemic spending likely limited the impact of the pandemic on the Bahraini economy.

The stimulus package propelled economic activity and put Bahrain on track to recover from the pandemic. By 2021, Bahrain’s GDP had seen an increase of 2.2%. Diversification of the economy will improve economic stability in Bahrain, especially amid recovery from the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Bahrain.

– Josef Whitehead
Photo: Flickr

Lewis Hamilton’s Fight for Bahrain Human RightsLewis Hamilton is a seven-time Formula One World Champion and is famous for his domination in the series. However, Hamilton has also made efforts to use his platform to make the world a better place to live in. He is a vocal advocate for social equality and racial justice, most recently joining the fight for Bahrain human rights. Formula One, a form of international auto racing for single-seater formula racing cars, holds a race in Bahrain every year, which draws in many fans worldwide. However, in Bahrain, there are several human rights violations that many may not be aware of.

Human Rights Abuses in Bahrain

A report from Amnesty International states that online critics of the government and protesters in Bahrain are submitted to unfair trials that suppress freedom of expression. Prison conditions are poor and detainees are subject to ill-treatment and torture. In addition, women face discrimination under Bahraini law. Moreover, immigrant workers are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 due to appalling living conditions. These issues influence Hamilton’s determination to fight for Bahrain human rights. Hamilton does not want to just race in Bahrain, he wants to raise awareness and combat human rights abuses in the countries Formula One visits.

Freedom of Speech

Some citizens of Bahrain are punished for speaking out against human rights violations. The Head of the Outlawed Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab, served four years in prison for criticizing the government’s human rights record on Twitter. In addition, some of the country’s religious and political leaders are in prison for participating in opposition demonstrations. According to Amnesty International, 11 leaders have been in prison since 2011. One of the leaders, Shi’a cleric Sheikh Isa Qasim, had his citizenship revoked and was forced to exile in Iran. Moreover, the Bahrain government owns and manages local newspapers and broadcasters. There are no independent media outlets, which explains why freedom of speech is a Bahraini human rights issue.

Medical Negligence in Prisons

Medical negligence is common in Bahraini detention facilities. According to Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, political prisoners are denied medical treatment. Sayed Kadhem Abbas complained to Bahrain prison officials of headaches and vomiting for two years and went without treatment before succumbing to cancer in February 2020. Political prisoners Abbas Mallah and Husain Barakat were refused medical care for their illnesses before dying within two months of each other at the same Bahraini prison.

Women’s Rights

Several women face prison time for demanding equal rights. Ifex states that 330 Bahraini women remain in prison since 2011 for demanding their rights at demonstrations. Women in Bahrain are prevented from passing on their nationality to their children. Although the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is working with local and international institutions to enforce women’s rights, there has been little change in the legislation or laws.

The Ministry of Interior’s Ombudsman, the government’s National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) and the Office of Public Prosecution’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) have been unsuccessful in protecting human rights and punishing violations. The Americans for Democracy and Human Rights for Bahrain have called for the U.S. and U.K. to request Bahrain to allow an independent investigation into human rights abuses. The Bahrain government seems to have the last say on whether that happens.

Formula One and Human Rights Violations in Bahrain

In December 2020, Hamilton received a letter from an 11-year-old boy from Bahrain. The boy’s father was facing the death penalty and asked Hamilton for help. The letter led Hamilton to educate himself about human rights issues in Bahrain, meeting with law officials to implement change. Prior to the Formula One race in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Hamilton met with the U.K. ambassador and officials in Bahrain. While details of the meeting are confidential, Hamilton expressed hopefulness in implementing change with regard to the country’s human rights issues.

Before the Bahrain Grand Prix, Hamilton stated that Formula One has a “consistent and massive problem” with human rights abuses in the places it visits. Executive Chairman of the Formula One Group Chase Carey adds, “we are very proud of our partnership here in Bahrain” and “Formula One is in fact working with partners to improve and advance the human rights issues.” The Bahraini government told CNN that “Bahrain has a zero-tolerance policy toward mistreatment of any kind.”

Fighting for Bahrain Human Rights

Hamilton expresses that joining the fight for Bahrain human rights is important for him. Hamilton does not want the series that he drives for to remain silent about these issues. Since Hamilton is an advocate for equality, he wants to use the platform to implement change in every country Formula One visits. If Hamilton learns of human rights abuses in that country, he will speak out about it. In the Formula One Series, when Hamilton speaks, most listen. Media outlets from all over the world report his views against inequality, not to mention, his 23.5 million Instagram followers.

An independent investigation into Bahrain’s human rights abuses could be the result of Hamilton speaking out. While there have been many unsuccessful investigations, Hamilton’s voice could be the start of a new beginning for oppressed Bahraini people.

– Dana Smith
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccination in BahrainBahrain is a leading regional actor in COVID-19 vaccination efforts, with more than half of its population fully vaccinated. In addition, it has used technology to its advantage as one of the first countries in the world to create a vaccine passport app, a tool that allows citizens to register for vaccines and track their status. In the Middle East at large, Bahrain has modeled diligent leadership with high vaccination rates.

5 Facts About the COVID-19 Vaccination in Bahrain

  1. Bahrain was one of the first countries to approve the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, aiding in its high vaccination rates. In December 2020, Bahrain became the second country to officially approve the Pfizer vaccine, following the U.K. As Bahrain was able to administer doses early, a higher percentage of its population was vaccinated early on.
  2. Vaccines are easily accessible in Bahrain. Bahrain has led vaccination efforts by offering cost-free vaccines to all citizens. Making vaccines easily accessible has also contributed to Bahrain’s high vaccination rates, with nearly two million doses administered thus far. Citizens can also choose which vaccine to receive by using the registration feature in the BeAware app.
  3. A digital COVID-19 passport app allows citizens to keep track of their vaccination status and register for vaccines. In February 2021, through an app called BeAware, Bahrain became one of the first countries to create a digital vaccine passport. Using the app, users can present their official vaccination status, detailing both personal information and the type of vaccine received. This allows users to present an easily verifiable vaccination status to authorities and officials by scanning a QR code. In addition, users who have not yet been vaccinated can make an appointment through the app.
  4. More than half of Bahrain’s population is fully vaccinated. With a population of 1.6 million, 50.55% of Bahrain’s citizens were vaccinated as of June 12, 2021. As of June 14, 2021, Bahrain administered 1.9 million COVID-19 doses and fully vaccinated almost 870,000 people. In fact, according to Our World in Data, Bahrain ranks second in the world for vaccination rates per 100 people and 13th in the world for total vaccinations, despite its smaller population.
  5. Bahrain is offering booster shots to at-risk individuals. For individuals who received a second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine, Bahrain is offering booster shots at least six months after. Eligible recipients of the booster shots are first responders, people older than the age of 50 and people suffering from obesity, weak immunity or preexisting health ailments. The booster shot effort aims to mitigate recent COVID-19 surges and provide additional protection to those most vulnerable.

A Model of Diligence

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Bahrain has been a consistent model of diligence and effective leadership amid the ongoing health crisis. Furthermore, despite recent surges in the virus, Bahrain is proactive in mitigating the spread of the virus by maintaining travel restrictions for particular countries and offering booster shots to vulnerable citizens. Ultimately, Bahrain’s commitment to adhering to health guidelines and ensuring vaccine accessibility are key factors in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and reaching herd immunity.

– Samuel Weinmann
Photo: Unsplash

Healthcare in Bahrain
Bahrain is an Arab state located on the southwestern coast of the Persian Gulf. The country includes Bahrain Island and around 30 other small islands. Its economy relies on crude oil production and a rising service industry that tourism dominates. While many surrounding countries struggled with COVID-19, Bahrain has adapted well to the pandemic. Not only did the government provide free medical treatment, but Bahrain did this while experiencing Iranian cyber attacks. Bahrain’s Information and eGovernment Authority intercepted 6 million attacks and more than 830,000 malevolent emails from Iranian servers. While Bahrain certainly has challenges to face regarding other regional actors, three critical facts about healthcare in Bahrain indicate a highly successful healthcare program.

3 Progressions of Bahrain’s Healthcare

  1. Healthcare in Bahrain is Universal. While the debate on universal healthcare has recently become a common topic in many Western nations, including the United States, the government of Bahrain has offered comprehensive healthcare since 1960. The system’s services are free for citizens, and non-Bahraini inhabitants receive large subsidizations. The Ministry of Health works alongside the National Health Regulatory Authority and the Supreme Council of Health to provide three tiers of service: primary, secondary and tertiary. With primary care as the cornerstone of healthcare in Bahrain, the Ministry uses its 25 health centers and three health clinics to act as the first line of contact with sick and injured Bahraini people. While this program goes far to expand access to healthcare in Bahrain, that does not mean it is without its fair share of difficulties. Bahrain’s growing population has strained healthcare budgets as the country strives to keep and continue to improve its services. Alongside the growing population, the investment into this program has also increased, but the budget still struggles to meet its increased demands.
  2. Healthcare in Bahrain is Advanced for its Region. With a universal healthcare system, Bahrain’s low-income population does not struggle with a lack of access to healthcare. Not only is access high in Bahrain, but the technology and standard of care far surpass regional actors. The Bahrani healthcare system is one of the most advanced in the Gulf region. Moreover, the country’s facilities are state-of-the-art and have no shortage of doctors, nurses and dentists. Indeed, the standard of care in Bahrain is comparable to the care in Western countries.
  3. Bahrain has Implemented a Vaccine Passport to Help Fight COVID-19. While many countries are still debating the possibilities of a vaccine passport, the government of Bahrain decided to implement vaccination passports as early as mid-February 2021. Bahrain became one of the first countries in the world to use a digital COVID-19 vaccine passport. The country also released its BeAware app that functions as a digital vaccine passport that officials can verify. Health officials expect the technology to aid in tracking and contact tracing to help limit the spread of COVID-19 within the country. Moreover, Bahrain has taken decisive steps to overcome vaccine hesitation prevalent in Arab states. For example, Bahrain, alongside the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, has made vaccines mandatory for specific jobs.

Looking Ahead

Even though Bahrain has faced challenges from Iran, its healthcare system has been quite successful. Through its decision to implement universal healthcare, all Bahraini citizens, even those with low incomes, can obtain quality healthcare.

Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Bahrain
Bahrain, a small Middle-Eastern country off the coast of the Arab Peninsula, consists of Bahrain Island and 30 smaller islands. Due to its coastal location, Bahrain has greater access to ocean travel and, in consequence, a wider range of influences than its Arab-Islamic neighbors. These influences have made Bahrain a more ethnically and religiously diverse nation, and, while still conservative, more liberal and accepting in its interpretation of Islam. However, women’s rights in Bahrain have lacked in many ways.

The openness regarding interpretations of Islam has brought positive change for female rights and Bahraini women are the most liberally educated in the MENA (Middle-Eastern North-African) region. However, Bahraini law is a complicated combination of royal decrees, civil and criminal codes and Sharia law (religious Islamic law that comes from the Quran and the Hadith). As a result, while the secular part of Bahraini law advances women, the religious part holds them back. Here is a breakdown of these opposing legislative forces in the improvement of women’s rights in Bahrain.

The Background

Since he took the throne in 1999, the political and economic reforms of hereditary leader Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa have sparked the improvement of women’s rights in Bahrain. Bahrain’s 2002 constitution set women equal to men, guaranteeing gender equality in, “political, social and economic spheres, without breaching the provisions of Islamic law.” While this seems hopeful, the constitution also stated that “the family is the cornerstone of society, the strength which lies in religion, ethics and patriotism,” meaning the nation still believes in a traditional and conservative role for women.

Even more, no provisions exist in the constitution explicitly banning discrimination on the grounds of gender in the workplace or any other sphere of society. While popular protests have demanded a fully elected legislature in 2005 and increased democratic representation, an end to discrimination against Sunnis and the creation of an anti-corruption agency in 2011, no revisions have occurred to the 2002 constitution and the constitution has not given additional rights to Bahraini women.


Bahrain joined the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 2002. CEDAW is an international treaty from the United Nations that defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets out an agenda to eliminate it. Bahrain made great strides for women by joining CEDAW, providing its female citizens with adequate healthcare, education and employment opportunities. However, the nation joined the treaty with reservations about CEDAW’s articles that contradicted the Sharia, which included the prohibition of discrimination within governmental policies, the right for a woman to pass citizenship to her husband and children, freedom of movement regarding residency and equality in marriage and family life.

Islamic law mandates that men receive more inheritance than women and that children take citizenship from their fathers. Moreover, it states that it is unacceptable for women to live outside their married houses. Thus, while CEDAW improved women’s rights in Bahrain, the country’s commitment to Sharia law prevents Bahrain from truly accepting these social reforms.

Political Rights

In Bahrain, women have the right to vote and stand in local and national elections. Bahrain was the first nation to grant universal female suffrage in 2002 and, by the 2006 elections, 16 female candidates ran for the Council of Representatives and women made up 50.2% of the vote. While women have won elections, they have an exceedingly difficult time getting elected and even running, making women underrepresented in decision-making positions.

Only 39 female candidates ran in the 2018 parliamentary elections in comparison to 330 men. However, since adopting its new constitution, the Bahraini government has made considerable efforts to elect more women through its Supreme Council of Women, a semi-governmental body that the king’s wife runs. The Supreme Council of Women has had a powerful influence and, in 2018, Bahraini citizens elected six women to Bahrain’s lower house of Parliament, doubling their previous number and setting the record as an all-time high of elected female representatives in the nation.


In 2007, Bahraini women made up 72% of the students at Arabian Gulf University and 67% of the University of Bahrain, exceeding the percentage of men at these universities. However, despite dominating the student population, Bahraini women frequently do not work in the workforce. Due to the strong traditional values of Islam, many subjects are unavailable to female students. Technical subjects are only available to male students, and textile classes are limited to females. While women receive the opportunity for education, they must study subjects that have low demand in the workforce, increasing their likelihood of unemployment.

Economic Rights

True economic equality is hard to achieve in Arab nations and the majority of the Bahraini workforce is male. Women only make up around one-fifth of the working population. However, the Bahraini government encourages women to work, creating incentives for employers to hire Bahraini women. For example, the government implemented a rule stating that hiring a Bahraini woman counts as hiring two citizens, helping companies increase their percentage of indigenous employment so they can employ more foreign workers (who tend to work for cheaper). Despite this government encouragement, Bahraini women face hard social pressures to stay at home and take care of their family, as is customary in Islamic tradition.

Social Rights

In May 2009, the government passed its first personal status law, a huge step for women’s rights in Bahrain. The new law granted women the right to consent to marriage and have conditions in a marriage contract. It also allowed women to take a separate residence if their husband marries a new wife.

Many laws exist that are discriminatory towards women. In Islamic court, a woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s (however in civil court, testimonies are equal). In addition, no laws exist to protect women from gender-based violence. If a man assaults a female relative, he may face a few days in jail, but then only has to sign a pledge and pay a fee. Even more, spousal rape is legal and a rapist may avoid punishment if he agrees to marry his victim. These laws have deep roots in Islamic law, which grants men and women unequal rights in social and family life.


In conjunction with the Supreme Council of Women, many NGOs have been fighting and advocating for women’s rights in Bahrain. Specifically, the Bahrain Women’s Union has had an especially strong impact on the advancement of women’s rights. While 456 NGOs exist in Bahrain, only 19 focus on women’s rights, and 12 of those 19 are a part of the Bahrain Women’s Union. The group aims for women to be more active politically and fights all forms of gender discrimination in Bahrain. After its creation in 2006, the Bahraini Women’s Union worked toward ratifying CEDAW and passing the personal status law. Other influential NGOs in Bahrain include the Awal’s Women’s Society, which provides free legal advice to abused women and the Batelco Anti-Domestic Violence Center, which rehabilitates domestically abused women.

The state of women’s rights in Bahrain is complex and manifold. The nation’s complicated combination of religious and secular law stops many gender discrimination reforms from reaching their full potential. Many NGOs and international organizations are actively helping to advocate for and win rights for Bahraini women but this work does not exempt these women from the societal norms pressuring them into traditional roles in the household. While Bahrain still has a long way to go, its relatively liberal interpretation of Islamic law and openness to equality leaves hope for the continued advancement of women’s rights.

– Georgia Bynum
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in BahrainSmall in size, but rich in natural resources, Bahrain has a small population of 1.5 million residents and a GDP of $37.75 billion. It is one of the richest countries in the world, much like other GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries. It is the fifth richest Arab country and the 23rd richest country in the world. This is mostly due to its high-income economy that relies on oil, natural gas and tourism. As a result, many overlook the problem of homelessness in Bahrain.

Housing Assistance

In fact, there is not much information about homelessness in Bahrain. This is because the government has established an agency called The Ministry of Housing. Its main responsibility is to provide adequate social housing for those in the country who cannot afford it. The constitution specifies the obligation of the government to provide housing for its citizens. Three-fifths of Bahrain’s citizens have benefited from government housing assistance, which is why homelessness in Bahrain is not a large social phenomenon.

Housing Insecurity

Despite the low rates of homelessness in Bahrain, there is a problem of housing insecurity for many of Bahrain’s residents. Migrant laborers who work in low paying jobs do not receive the same rights citizens do, especially when it comes to housing. Their housing arrangement is through the “Kafala” system, a form of modern-day slavery, in which an employer dictates where the workers live. Housing is generally paid for by renting shared apartments to save money. Without receiving housing benefits and having an average wage of BHD 196, which the government defines as “low pay”, migrant works are left in a very vulnerable position. When oil prices fell in 2019 and an economic downturn occurred, many of these laborers were not receiving their wages. On top of that, the rising cost of living resulted in an increased rate of suicide among the migrants.

Signs of Progress

The government of Bahrain is currently in the second phase of implementing a Wage Protection System bill, which passed in 2019. The bill would require companies to pay their employees using methods authorized by the Central Bank of Bahrain. It would also require them to inform the Labour Market Regulatory Authority of the payments. Additionally, it imposes requirements employers must adhere to when seeking migrant labor. These requirements include a clean record absent of failure to pay workers’ wages. This is a step in the right direction, as it will ensure that migrant workers will at least receive the payments they need for rent, combating housing insecurity.

Such measures come in part as a result of advocacy by groups that fight for the rights of laborers. One example is an organization known as Migrant-Rights.org. Migrant-Rights.org is an advocacy group based in GCC that documents migrant worker abuse and advocates on their behalf. The work of these groups helps reduce housing insecurity among migrant workers, further improving the issue of homelessness in Bahrain.

Mustafa Ali
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Bahrain
The Kingdom of Bahrain is the island nation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This former British protectorate achieved its independence in 1971. Since the discovery of oil in the mid-20th century, Bahrain’s petroleum industry has been the backbone of the country’s economy and has become one of the wealthiest countries in the world. With its newfound wealth, the Bahraini government invested in public welfare, infrastructure and public sectors. This led to a steady increase in life expectancy in Bahrain.

9 Facts about Life Expectancy in Bahrain

  1. The life expectancy in Bahrain stood at 79.4 years as of 2019. The average life expectancy for women in Bahrain is 81.8 years, compared to 77.1 years for men. Bahrain ranks 52nd in terms of average life expectancy when compared to the entire world. The U.N. estimates that Bahrain’s life expectancy will increase to 81.16 years by 2050.
  2. The biggest increase in life expectancy in Bahrain occurred during the 1960s. After the country’s discovery of oil in 1931, Bahrain reported strong economic growth in the subsequent decades which positively impacted life expectancy. However, since the 1970s the rate of increase in life expectancy in Bahrain has slowed. The life expectancy in Bahrain is on par with countries such as the U.K., the U.S. and Australia.
  3. Bahrain has both universal and private health care. For Bahraini nationals, comprehensive care is provided free of charge, which contributes to the overall excellent life expectancy in Bahrain. The central government mainly finances the health care system. Still, some citizens prefer to participate in private healthcare options in order to overcome the challenge of longer wait times in public facilities.
  4. Bahrain’s immunization program largely eliminated childhood infectious diseases in the kingdom. The introduction of the measles vaccine in 1974 was the saving grace at a time when measles was the leading cause of death among children. After the introduction of the measles vaccine, the Bahraini government conducted a successful nationwide vaccination campaign. By 1999, more than 90 percent of children in Bahrain received vaccines. In 2009, the measles outbreak included only 0.27 cases per 100,000 compared to 1985 when there were 250 cases per 100,000.
  5. As of 2019, the Bahraini government passed a new law that mandates health insurance coverage for all citizens, residents and visitors. Under the new law, expatriate domestic workers, such as housemaids, drivers, gardeners and nurses, will be covered for free.
  6. The leading cause of death in Bahrain is ischemic heart disease. Ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, refers to a heart condition where the major blood vessels to the heart become damaged or diseased. Obesity and smoking are the leading cause of ischemic heart disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that, as of 2016, 27 percent of Bahrain’s population smokes tobacco. WHO also reported that 29 percent of the adults in Bahrain were obese.
  7. The Bahraini government is set to finish the construction of a $32 million long-term health care center. Funded through the Saudi Fund for Development, this 100-bed facility aims to open in 2022. The facility will be equipped to treat patients who are afflicted with ailments that require long-term care.
  8. Bahrain’s suicide rate ranks 138th in the world. Bahrain is ranked relatively low on the suicide rate ranking out of the 183 countries ranked by the WHO. The data in 2016 shows that there were 5.9 people committing suicide for every 100,000 people in Bahrain. However, in 2019, the WHO also reported that Bahrain had the 5th highest rate of suicide among Arab Nations.
  9. In 2019, Bahrain is ranked as the most air-polluted country in the Middle East. Other countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan were among the top 10 countries on the list. Experts stated that emissions of oil refineries, power stations and fuel-powered transportation and burning of waste in open spaces are the major contributors to pollution in Bahrain. These pollutants in the air can cause a variety of respiratory complications.

Life expectancy in Bahrain is very much related to the country’s economy. Since the discovery of oil in the 1930s, the Bahraini government used their newfound wealth to bolster the country’s infrastructure and health care for its citizens. With the help of international funds such as the Saudi Fund for Development, Bahrain is further bolstering its health care system. However, the country’s declining oil industry and the pollution that they cause does give rise to concerns about the future of life expectancy in Bahrain

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr