7 Measures to Tackle COVID-19 in Qatar
Qatar is one of the biggest oil sectors in the Middle East. It has also been the site of a diplomatic crisis after its highly-publicized split from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). COVID-19 in Qatar has spawned a decline in oil prices and in addition, the government has been cracking down on the rights of migrant workers by utilizing digital technology to monitor the spread of the disease. Here are seven facts about COVID-19 in Qatar.

7 Facts About COVID-19 in Qatar

  1. In late March 2020, the government put several square kilometers of industrial zones in Doha, the nation’s capital, on lockdown. The lockdown shut down labor in warehouses, car services and small shops, negatively impacting migrant workers who work in these sectors. In addition, Amnesty International has reported that Qatari authorities are illegally detaining migrant workers and sending them back to their native countries.
  2. Qatar has increased the number of COVID-19 tests by using a drive-through procedure that The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) developed. While thousands underwent testing and quarantine mid-March in Doha’s Industrial Area, increased testing is now available for volunteers.
  3. As of May 7, 2020, Qatar recorded 12 deaths, 18,890 infections and 2,286 recoveries in a population of 2.8 million. These infection rates surpass that of many other countries. Many migrant workers and poorer families make up the newer cases. They often live in small dormitories with up to 12 people sharing bunk beds, making social distancing a challenge. However, the death rate remains low despite higher rates of infection. This may be due to a mostly young population and the stringent lockdowns that the government enforced.
  4. The Gulf economy relies heavily on oil trade and production. Qatar accounts for 12% of the world’s natural gas and petroleum resources. The value of these resources has dropped drastically since the outbreak of the virus. The ruler of Qatar has now postponed up to $8.2 billion on capital expenditure projects.
  5. A law surrounding domestic work in Qatar stipulates that domestic workers can only take time off if their employers grant it. Domestic workers do not have protection under labor laws like factory workers and other jobs. They cannot intersperse rest breaks into their working hours but must work the same amount of shifts. This furthers the risk of contracting the virus. Domestic workers, primarily women, face especially dire consequences. The families that many of these workers serve sometimes also abuse them, causing rising rates of domestic violence. Domestic workers either risk suffering abuse in these houses or contracting the virus.
  6. Qatar Charity launched an online fundraiser in partnership with the Qatari youth initiative, Lakm Al-Ajr, which translates to “Pays for Pay.” The youth initiative distributes 800 breakfast meals every day throughout the holy month of Ramadan. As a result, it has been able to feed 4,000 industrial migrant workers in Doha per day.
  7. The government increased its use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology in order to combat the spread of the pandemic. The technology helps to monitor the spread by closely tracking people who tested positive for the virus via speed cameras, drones and location-based tracking. This limits more exposure in the general population.

Qatar is one of the Gulf Nations that has split from the GCC, creating political disruption. In addition, its migrant workers are still in need of basic necessities like food and medical supplies. The presence of COVID-19 in Qatar puts even more strain on the country and international partners that rely on oil. Qatar Charity has implemented several programs in partnership with other organizations to fund COVID-19 relief and is taking donations for further medical help and assistance in Qatar.

– Isabel Corp
Photo: Good Free Photos

Labor reforms in Qatar
In the prelude to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar received relentless criticism on migrants’ working conditions from the international community and mass media, causing the government to transform its labor system and uphold the rights of migrant workers through sweeping reforms.

Kafala System

Qatar’s kafala system ties migrant workers’ visas to their employers by requiring them to obtain their permission (a no-objection certificate) in order to change jobs. This, in turn, gives the employer entire control over the exit visa of his employees. This sponsorship and visa system not only leads to abuses and exploitation of labor practices, including the confiscation of migrant workers’ passports, but it also prevents a local domestic labor market from operating. Thus, radical labor reforms in Qatar are necessary in order for the country to develop itself according to international standards and to modernize its economy.

Recent Reforms

One of the significant steps Qatar made in 2017 was concluding a cooperation accord with the International Labor Organization (ILO). It stated that it would set a minimum wage and promised to repeal the kafala system. Later in 2017, Qatar introduced a temporary minimum wage of 750 Qatari Rial (approximately $200) and plans on introducing a non-discriminatory minimum wage by the end of 2019, making it the first country in the Gulf region to do so. These labor reforms in Qatar will improve migrant workers’ rights significantly, which will not only increase their working conditions but also their motivation to work, resulting in a more efficient and productive economy. In addition, Law No. 13 entered into force in October 2018, stating that migrant workers would no longer need their employers’ permission to enter and exit the country. These laws contribute to transforming Qatar’s current system into a modern industrial relations system.

Ending the Kafala System

However, Qatar still has not abolished the kafala system which caused hundreds of workers to go on strike and protest in August 2019. This is barring the fact that Qatari law strictly bans joining unions and participating in strikes. Protesting workers have reported that they have not received pay for months and are not receiving their renewed working permits from their employers, making it illegal for them to stay in the country. Consequently, Qatar’s Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs announced that the reform ending the Kafala system will enter into force in January 2020, facilitating the efficacy of the other recently introduced reforms as a whole.

Issue of Irregular Migration

Although positive, these reforms and Labor Laws do not cover migrant domestic workers with a local Qatari contract, meaning that the Labor Law does not protect them and they cannot seek assistance from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. By excluding migrant domestic workers, Qatar is not tackling the issue of irregular migrants and the illegality of employment, which is a major concern for the local authorities. The Sponsorship Law binds domestic migrant workers to their employers, and so, if they suffer abuse, they are likely to abscond and either seek illegal work in the country or attempt to return to their home country. An underground informal labor market developed in Qatar due to the high number of irregular workers looking for work, which is a predominant issue for the government. Indeed, one of the key objectives included in the Qatar National Vision 2030 is to develop a knowledge-based economy consisting of highly skilled people and reduce Qatar’s dependency on low-skilled foreign nationals. Therefore, the inclusion of domestic migrant workers and resolving the issue of irregular/illegal workers is essential for Qatar’s plan to become a modern economy with highly-skilled people.

The current labor reforms in Qatar are a major step towards improving the human rights of the millions of migrant workers living in the country, in addition to contributing to the development of Qatar’s fast-growing economy. Despite the implementation of these laws seeming interminable, Qatar focuses on long-lasting and profound changes in its labor market with the help and recognition of international organizations such as the ILO and the United Nations.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Pixabay

airlines fight poverty
When thinking about airlines, people often only think about things such as comfort, price and convenience. Many forget to consider the different ways their favorite airlines make a difference to people around the world. Below lists how five of the world’s top airlines fight poverty.

How 5 Global Airlines Fight Poverty

  1. Qatar Airways: Travelers voted Qatar Airways the best airline in the world in 2019. The airline fights poverty by supporting and donating to charity projects in over 43 countries around the globe. One of these is Educate A Child. Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar founded this initiative to provide children facing extreme poverty with opportunities for education. Since 2013, Qatar Airways’ customers and employees raised $2.3 million for the initiative. The airline matches the funds that customers donate onboard. Educate A Child works in countries around the world, from Uganda to Lebanon and Haiti.
  2. British Airways (BA): This airline fights poverty in partnership with Comic Relief through the Flying Start program. The airline raised more than 23 million pounds since the program’s inception in June 2010. Customers raise funds when they donate via the BA website or onboard the airlines. British Airways staff also gather donations via onboard collections as well as by participating in individual or group challenges such as skydiving, mountain climbing and cycling. Through Flying Start, BA helped more than 620,000 children and youth across the U.K. and other countries such as Ghana, South Africa, Jamaica and India.
  3. JetBlue: Travelers voted JetBlue the best airline in the U.S. The airline worked with the Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring (DREAM) Project since 2008 to provide equal opportunity to high-quality education to children in the Dominican Republic. In partnership with DREAM, JetBlue can reach 6,000 youth each year.Since 2006, JetBlue also partnered with First Book to give brand new books to children who would otherwise not be able to afford books or other learning material. The airline successfully distributed more than 430,000 new books to children in local U.S. communities as well as around the world. In 2016, when JetBlue launched its inaugural flight to Quito, Ecuador, its donation of 500 books to the Working Boys’ Center marked the first time since 2008 that the center received new books.
  4. Etihad Airways: The national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) worked with Magic Bus to support children and youth between the ages of 12 and 18 in India. In December 2016, a group of volunteers from the airline’s staff worked in Mumbai and constructed a sports field, a weatherproof outdoor shelter as well as a vegetable garden. Since its founding 20 years ago, Magic Bus helped more than 1 million children across 22 states in India as well as children in Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh to gain skills and knowledge necessary to move out of poverty.
  5. Lufthansa: The German airline won the best European airline award in 2019. Lufthansa Group and Lufthansa employees formed an aid organization called the Help Alliance in 1999. It is through this alliance that the airline fights poverty. Currently, it manages 50 projects worldwide. The donations alone fund these programs. The Help Alliance constructed iThemba Primary School in Cape Town, South Africa where more than 200 students studied since January 2018. When the project finishes, 700 students will have the chance to receive a quality education. This is important as more than 2,000 children in Cape Town do not get the chance to attend school. In Brazil, the Broadening Horizons program enables 30 disadvantaged youth from around Sao Paulo Airport to receive vocational training as bakers or confectioners. The youth undergo six months of training after which most of them find jobs in one of the many catering companies, hospitals and hotels in the region.

Beyond moving people from one place to another, top airlines in the world give back to the communities around them. Customers can choose to travel with airlines that fight poverty and make a small donation to help them in their quest.

Sophia N. Wanyonyi
Photo: Pixabay


Qatar borders Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf in Asia. From villages to a booming urban sector, it promotes sustainable development across a gradient continuing to flourish. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Qatar.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Qatar

  1. Oil: As the third-largest reservoir of natural resources Qatar makes up 14 percent of worldwide oil production. The reserves endure 25 trillion cubic meters. Predominantly obtaining resources in The North Field, petroleum accounts for more than half of GDP.
  2. Mowsalat: A government organization, Mowasalat, operates public transportation, limo and taxi services. It has headquarters in Doha and works throughout various communities within the region. It provides dispatch services under Karwa technologies and a variety of telecommunication amenities with regards to living conditions in Qatar.
  3. Water: Desalination contrives 99 percent of the domestic water supply. The majority of the population has access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities. Groundwater is one of the main freshwater resources. The country has no rivers or lakes.
  4. People: With a population of approximately 2 million, the median age of Qatar’s inhabitants is 33 years old. Non-Arab immigrants comprise the majority with Pakistanis, Indians, Iranians and other various ethnic backgrounds. Arabic is the official language and English is a close second.
  5. Women’s Rights: Personal status laws victimize women in child custody, marriage and divorce. Male frontrunners must approve of women’s’ rights to marry. Boundaries contiguous with divorce provide unilateral rights only to men.
  6. Kafala: Kafala is a sponsorship program for migrant workers that the International Labor Organization (ILO) brought forth. Labor laws prohibit workers from leaving the country without permits with regards to living conditions in Qatar. It implements reforms for increasing minimum wage, procedures surrounding recruitment and elements against human trafficking.
  7. Reforms on Education: Reform is continually taking place in Education City to bolster and enhance sustainable development amidst Qatar’s youth and higher education. Increasing motivation and factors stem from region-specific tradition to import best practices, globalization and transnational education, global competition, local education reform policies and liberalization.
  8. Health Care: With an increasing population, free health care offerings extend to all people in the country. Life expectancy stands at approximately 79 years as of 2005. The government regulates planning and infrastructure among initiatives.
  9. Municipalities: Qatar has 10 municipalities including Jarayan al Batinah, Madinat Ash Shamal, Messaieed, Umm Salal, Ad Dawhah, Al Ghuwayriyah, Al Jumayliyah, Al Khawr, Al Wakrah and Ar Rayyan. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs controls urban planning and economic development. Municipalities are responsible for answering to councils within their region.
  10. Tourism: Doha and surrounding cities have been renovating tourism for the preparation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Tourist attractions such as Al Wakra Museum and Aspire Park provide cultural identification for living conditions in Qatar. In previous years, it has been hosting the 2006 Asian Games and the 2011 Pan Arab Games.

Rapid economic and industrial expansion began at the price of reform. Qatar has the highest per capita GDP in the world largely due to the discovery of petroleum. As a syndicate of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the country continues to develop at an alarming pace. From the racing of camels to the vastness of their sand dunes the culture derives from nomadic Bedouins.

– Zach Erlanger
Photo: Flickr

living conditions in Qatar

Qatar is a small nation bordered predominantly by Saudi Arabia. The nation has the highest GDP production in the Arab speaking world. Because of this, living standards are higher than many other Middle Eastern nations. Yet, Qatar is not without its issues surrounding living conditions despite its perceived excessive wealth.

10 Things to Know About Living Conditions in Qatar

  1. Qatar has a forced labor problem. Migrant workers make up 90 percent of Qatar’s population. Under a 2009 sponsorship law, workers have to hand over their passports to their employers. Workers often hesitate to complain or report abuses because this makes them vulnerable to the whims of their employers. Workers pay thousands to recruiters and often arrive to find that they are being paid less than promised, but they can’t leave because they are under contract and their employers have their passports.
  2. Qatar has a unique single-payer public health care system and a new national health strategy that seeks to improve outcomes for those living in Qatar. Qatar has one of the most effective healthcare systems in the Middle East. It ranks 13 in the world’s best healthcare systems and is number one in the Middle East.
  3. Men outnumber women four to one. There are only 700,000 women in Qatar, a country of 2.5 million people. This is due to the massive influx of migrant workers in the country, which are mostly men trying to provide for their families.
  4. Women in Qatar are twice as likely to pursue higher education than men. Men often decide to go straight into work after high school. Although women graduate at twice the rate of men, they only occupy 31 percent of the workforce.
  5. Women’s rights are limited in Qatar. The nation is a religious and conservative Muslim country, subscribing to Sharia law. It is still a taboo for women to fraternize with men. Women in Qatar cannot marry without the consent of a male family member. While men have uninhibited access to divorce, a woman can only divorce a man on narrow grounds. A woman cannot divorce her husband in Qatar if she is beaten or raped by her husband because domestic abuse and marital rape are not illegal under Qatari law.
  6. Qatar has the first Refugee Asylum Law in the Gulf. Qatar recently passed a law allowing refugees to seek asylum in the country. In an attempt to improve its public image for the upcoming world cup, Qatar has abolished exit visas for migrant workers. This may be a good first step in resolving the countries problem with forced labor. The law offers freedom of religion and freedom of movement for refugees as well as giving them access to an education while in Qatar.
  7. It is believed that upwards of at least 12,000 workers have died in the construction of World Cup stadium. This is due to workers being forced to build outside during summer in a country where temperatures usually can reach up to 50C (122F) degrees. There is a law banning work outside from June to August from 11:30- 3:00, but this has done little to decrease the work-related deaths. The most support for workers has come not from the Qatari Government, but from the Human Rights Watch, which has been trying to get the country to provide better conditions for workers.
  8. Pregnancy can be a crime. Sex outside of wedlock is illegal in Qatar, and extramarital affairs are punishable by stoning to death. Doctors are even required by law to refer to any pregnant women who cannot prove they are married to the authorities.
  9. Half of Qatar’s fresh water comes from a desalination process, and chemicals are added to the water to keep it from corroding the pipes. Unfortunately, the water often lacks basic minerals and contains harmful bacteria and is often not potable. This water is mostly good for use in agriculture. Qatar has the highest domestic water consumption in the world. The average household in Qatar uses 430 liters of water a day. Crops are watered with water from aquifers, which are being used up faster than they can be replenished.
  10. Qatar has a significant expat population. People from many different nationalities flock to Qatar for a number of reasons, including job opportunities and fewer tax restrictions. Those arriving from nearby nations experience less of a culture shock than those arriving from Western Europe although English is still the second highest spoken language in the region. Qatar is actively promoting the influx of expats through reduced visa restrictions.

Life in Qatar is vastly different and often times more difficult than that of the Western World. Human rights abuses still occur every day. Women, by international standards, are struggling to find a prominent socio-economic role. Even still, Qatar has a few unique features, including its single-payer healthcare system, that separate it positively from other nations. There is clearly more work to be done in regards to living conditions in Qatar.

Sarah Bradley
Photo: Flickr

Migrant Workers in Qatar

When one thinks of the Gulf state of Qatar, sky-high skyscrapers, double-decker airplanes and sprawling shopping malls come to mind. Ever since the discovery of oil in the region in 1939, the Qatari economy has seen rapid growth. In 2018, the CIA World Factbook ranked Qatar as second highest for GDP per capita, making it one of the wealthiest nations in the world. But this also makes it important for people to learn about the state of migrant workers in Qatar.

Migrant Workers in Qatar

The progress in Qatar has its drawbacks. When FIFA selected Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar was brought to the spotlight. A research brief from the UK Parliament found that Qatar has 1.5 million migrant workers or 90 percent of its total labor force comprises migrant workers.

While foreign workers continue to report incidents of exploitation and segregation, Qatar has made substantial improvements to its labor laws and is cooperating with organizations like Amnesty International and the International Labor Organization in the process.

The Kafala System

Gulf states—including Qatar—use the kafala (Arabic for sponsorship) system as an employment framework to recruit migrant laborers from abroad to work in low-paying jobs.

Under the kafala system in Qatar, migrant workers have documented a range of abuses, among them, are delayed and unpaid wages, excessive working hours, confiscation of passports, inaccessibility to healthcare and justice, sexual violence as well as deception in the recruitment process. In short, the kafala system binds a migrant worker into an exploitative employer-employee relationship.

By giving an employer control over a migrant worker’s job and residential status, the kafala system encourages workplace abuses. With over 95 percent of Qatari families employing at least one housemaid, some migrants choose to become domestic workers in the homes of Qatari nationals, where they are often subjected to sexual violence.

Furthermore, The Guardian reported in October 2013 that many Nepalese workers have died since the beginning of construction projects for future World Cup sites. These Nepalese workers live in segregated labor camps outside Doha where they endure unsanitary conditions and scant water supplies.

Labor Laws in Qatar

Under pressure from international nonprofits, Qatar has implemented a series of labor laws to improve working conditions for workers. In December 2016, a new law allowed migrant workers to return to Qatar within two years if they had previously left without their employer’s permission. It also increased the penalty for employers found guilty of confiscating their employees’ passports and created a committee to review workers’ requests to leave Qatar.

While this made no reference to the kafala system, the law fell short of addressing kafala’s main shortcoming, i.e. workers still need permission from their employers to switch jobs.

In order to help domestic workers who are often victims of forced prostitution, Qatar introduced a domestic workers law in August 2017. Instating legal protections for over 173,000 migrant domestic workers, the law sets a limit of 10 hours for a workday and mandates 24 consecutive hours off every week, as well as three weeks of annual paid leave. Though in its early stages, the law promises to alleviate the alienation and abuse of domestic workers, some of whom work up to 100 hours per week.

The Qatari government is gradually repealing the kafala system. In October 2017, the government expanded the Wage Protection System and mandated payment of wages by electronic transfer.

On September 5, 2018, an Amnesty International press release reported that the Emir of Qatar issued Law No. 13, which bans employers from preventing migrant workers from leaving the country.

Conclusion

Qatar’s World Cup bid may have been a blessing in disguise. Qatar started its stadium projects using slave-like labor, and now it has slowly opened up to the critiques and suggestions from external nonprofit organizations. As an example, the International Labor Organization has forged a technical cooperation agreement with Qatar and together they have worked to unravel the kafala system. These changes will turn this wealthy country into a more equitable one.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

 

Qatar Airways
On June 4, 2017, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain severed diplomatic relations with its Gulf neighbor, Qatar, over the latter’s supposed support for terrorism abroad, as well as its close relationship with the Shi’a power of Iran.

BBC reported that the diplomatic crisis not only rocked Qatar’s stock market that lost about 10 percent of its market value in the first four weeks but also stunted the expansion of specific airline company- Qatar Airways. Indeed, in the immediate aftermath, Qatar Airways canceled flights to 18 regional cities and changed flight paths to other destinations due to airspace limitations.

The Impact of Qatar Airways on the Country

The crisis showed the importance of Qatar Airways as both an economic engine of its home country and a transporter of food and other vital resources. Since its founding in 1994, Qatar Airways has spurred its country’s economy, both directly and indirectly, in the following three ways described in detail below.

Economic Engine

Doha’s Hamad International Airport connects Qatar with 150 destinations. To power its massive global operation, Qatar employs 40,000 professionals and as of 2016, it was the fastest growing airline in the world.

As Qatar’s only national airline, Qatar Airways also handles shipments of goods. The diplomatic crisis of 2017, for example, increased prices of elementary goods because Qatar Air Cargo had to take longer routes around restricted airspace.

Trade and Tourism

By branding itself as a world-famous stopover destination, Qatar Airways has influenced Doha’s and country’s tourism increase, spurring economic growth in the process. Ever since 2015, passengers transiting through Doha can participate in the airline’s Discover Qatar, which allows passengers to visit landmarks, including museums, beaches and shopping malls, in Qatar.

These excursions do not only promote Doha’s visibility on the world stage, but also bring foreign money to Qatar’s businesses. Discover Qatar has numbers to back its success. In November 2017, the program hosted 80 leading trade partners. According to Gulf Times, the delegation of trade partners visited the Katara Cultural Village, the Museum of Islamic Art and the stadiums that will host the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar’s emergence as a trade center has prompted its national airline to ease visa restrictions. In Sept. 2016, Qatar Airways worked with the Ministry of Interior to expedite the process for receiving visas, creating an online platform for issuing e-visas. Later in 2017, Qatar launched a free, 96-hour transit visa and extended a visa waiver policy to more than 80 countries. These visa initiatives resulted in an increase of 40,000 visitors in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Charity

The airline has funneled its profits to charitable purposes, both inside Qatar and globally. In 2013, Qatar Airways partnered with Educate a Child, a program that provides primary education to out-of-school children. During the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Qatar Airways partnered with Qatar Charity to deliver toys for 800 orphans in the Children’s Living Center in the Reyhanli province of Hatay, Turkey.

While booking their itineraries on Qatar Airways’ website, travelers have the option of making donations to educational organizations, with donation sizes ranging from $1 to $50. In November 2014, Qatar Airways raised approximately $700,000 to Educate a Child.

Nevertheless, critics worry that Qatar’s subsidization of its national carrier stifles competition. In the decade preceding January 2015, CNBC estimated that the three Middle Eastern carriers: Qatar Airways, Emirates Airlines and Etihad received more than $40 billion in subsidies from their state governments.

The nagging question is whether these subsidies are sustainable in the long run and if the Qatari government will always have money to invest in its airline’s success.

The status quo gives a reason for optimism, with the 2022 Qatar World Cup and Qatar Airways’ aggressive expansion into new markets showing the Gulf state’s promise for the future.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Hunger in Qatar Through Food Security Programs

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties and initiated an economic embargo of Qatar. This was due to reported Qatari state sponsorship of terrorism and of strengthening diplomatic ties between Qatar and Iran. As a part of the economic embargo, the four nations ceased food exports to Qatar, leading to raised concerns about food shortages and hunger in Qatar.

As a desert nation, Qatar relies heavily on food imports, with 80-90% of food supplies being imported. These imports were greatly affected by the embargo. Despite a rise in food aid from Turkey and Iran, Qatar saw a 40% hit to food imports by the end of June. Many people living in Qatar began to stockpile food as food shortages began and food prices rose. While there have been attempts to mediate the situation, the embargo was still ongoing at the end of September 2017 and is expected to continue into 2018.

While the rise in food prices has slowed and food imports have been coming in from different parts of the world, sustainability is still an issue. Qatar has been attempting to develop sustainable ways of providing its own food since before the embargo. In 2008, Qatar established the National Food Security Program (QNFSP) with the goal of increasing domestic food production. This would reduce the amount of food being imported and increase food security, the ability for all people to have economic and physical access to food, ultimately reducing hunger in Qatar.

The QNFSP has sought technological advances in crop production technologies and irrigation systems. One way this is being done is through the Sahara Forest Project, a pilot program using greenhouses on a one-hectare parcel of land outside Doha to grow crops and make fresh water from seawater. The Qatar Islamic Bank also announced in August that it would fund a 530,000 square meter food security facility to manufacture and store rice, raw sugar and edible oils. In addition, several companies are expanding livestock numbers, with one company seeking to add 25,000 cows in order to meet Qatar’s dairy demand by April 2018.

Another attempt to increase food security is being done through food processing. Food processing allows for longer shelf life and less waste. QNFSP is still working to expand this industry.

Finding ways to increase productivity in agriculture is extremely necessary for Qatar, where only one percent of the land is arable. In addition to investing in technology, private enterprises and the Qatar Development Bank will be investing to financially support unproductive farms, which currently make up 80% of registered farmland in Qatar. With the goal of providing 60% of its food through domestic agriculture by 2024, major steps are being taken to increase food security and decrease hunger in Qatar.

– Erik Beck

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Qatar

Qatar is a nation of extreme economic stratification between rich and poor. An oil rich gulf state, Qatar’s economy is booming, with its GDP reaching a soaring $329.2 billion in 2016 – making Qatar the wealthiest Arab state. Despite this title, there are still unfortunately a large number of people living in poverty here. In this climate of extreme inequality, the question of how to help people in Qatar remains of vital importance.

This economic growth is coupled with a massive population spike, due to the influx of migrant workers needed to sustain the economic growth of the country. Migrant workers are estimated to comprise about 90 percent of the Qatari population, with nearly 60 percent living in what the Qatari monarchy officially calls “labour camps.”

This influx of migrant workers has been further exacerbated by the construction for the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup. Human rights groups have long condemned the working conditions of migrant workers in Qatar. Under the kafala labor sponsorship system, workers are dependent on their employers for their visas, living accommodation and even permission to enter or exit the country. Amnesty International has deemed labor conditions as “squalid and cramped,” while the International Labor Organization is launching investigations into the labor camps and systems surrounding the construction of World Cup infrastructure.

Qatar is an absolute monarchy, ruled by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. As an official ally of the U.S., diplomats from the U.S. have unique access to the small faction of the Qatari population that maintains control over the political and economic realities that the poor face. It is crucial that the U.S. uses its influence to advocate for the outrageous treatment of migrant workers, on whose backs the immense wealth and economic growth of Qatar is built.

USAID has already begun to answer the question of how to help people in Qatar, and are still working to implement a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding Cooperation to Enhance Global Food Security, signed in 2011. Dr. Rajiv Shah, then the administrator of USAID, signed the MOU, saying, “Both the United States and Qatar see food security as a development issue that must be addressed comprehensively and creatively.”

It is critical to the health and well-being of the impoverished Qatari workers that these goals be pursued. Moreover, resources must continue to flow to organizations such as USAID, which work to pressure the Qatari monarchy to provide a social safety net and adequate human rights for its subjects.

Jeffery Harrell
Photo: Flickr

Most Common Diseases in QatarEven the richest country in the world has diseases that do not seem to be going away. Qatar a Middle Eastern nation that borders Saudi Arabia. This prosperous country had a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $66,415.30 in 2016. For comparison, the United States had a GDP per capita of $52,194.90. Even so, there are still health concerns that are not diminishing. Here are five of the most common diseases in Qatar.

Diabetes

In 2013, the Action on Diabetes (AOD) initiative provided people in Qatar with a free diabetes test. There was a concern about high blood sugar in the adult population, and the speculations were justified. The tests found that about 16 percent of the adult population has diabetes. This common disease is an issue that demands action. In the AOD test, 86 percent of the people who discovered they had diabetes were unaware of their blood-sugar problem, according to the Gulf Times.

Ischemic Heart Disease

Ischemic heart disease was the number one killer of people in 2005, but it has since moved to the number two spot. Science Daily explains that “ischaemia means a ‘reduced blood supply,’” so this heart disease occurs when the blood supply to the heart is low. This common disease in Qatar can be prevented by regular exercise, a healthy diet and monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure.

Diarrhea

Although diarrheal diseases have been decreasing since 1990, cases still occur and cause other issues, sometimes resulting in death. Intestinal issues can be caused by diarrhea, killing 1.4 out of 100,000 people annually. With the help of advanced medicine, awareness of eating healthy and improved water quality, the incidence of diarrhea will continue to drop.

Respiratory Problems

In Doha, the capital of Qatar, there is very poor air quality, which is causing respiratory issues. Difficulty breathing and coughing, lung infection and other respiratory diseases are prominent in the city. Although not many people have been fatally affected by the air pollution thus far, Doha News estimates that more people will contract diseases and die,if the air quality is not addressed. Even natives are “unclear [as to] why Qatar’s high pollution levels don’t correlate to high levels of early death and/or disease.”

Cancer

Similar to the United States, cancer is a big threat to residents. The three most common types of cancer are cancer of the respiratory system, breast cancer and liver cancer. These three diseases “[make] up 36.4% of all deaths from cancer in Qatar.” Researchers and organizations in Qatar are working hard to promote cancer awareness and prevention for the future. The National Cancer Strategy has laid out a plan for awareness and hopefully advances in medicine so less patients have to travel abroad for treatment. Many people are working to eliminate cancer from among the most common diseases in Qatar.

A wealthy nation is not a perfect one, and Qatar is an example of a developed nation with its own struggles. However, with enough medical research, health education and environmental consciousness, these diseases in Qatar will continue to become less common.

Sydney Missigman