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

World's Richest Country

There are many different ways to measure the wealth of a nation, and depending on methodology, answers may vary as to what is the world’s richest country. Since the U.S. has the highest GDP of all nations, at a considerable $18.56 trillion, it is a strong contender, along with China.

However, according to the CIA, IMF and World Bank, in 2016, the world’s richest country also happens to be one of the smallest: Qatar, which is located on the northeastern side of the Arabian peninsula. Qatar has the highest gross domestic product at purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita, meaning the nation’s GDP is the largest relative to the population and the strength of the currency. Under this measurement, the U.S. lags between ninth and thirteenth place.

With a landmass of less than 12,000 square kilometers and a population of 2.7 million people, Qatar boasts an average income of $129,000. Qatar’s success stems from gas and oil reserves, as is the case with other wealthy nations such as Norway. Qatar’s natural gas reserves are third largest in the world, trumped only by Russia and Iran. For this reason, 91% of the nation’s GDP stems from trade, primarily involving oil, and more than 50% of the government’s revenue can be attributed to the fuel sector. In 2016, Qatar sold $9 billion in bonds, the largest Middle East bond issue in history.

With no income tax, Qatar lures wealthy immigrants and expats and continues to grow in both population and wealth. The nation’s success has gained global attention; Qatar was selected to host the soccer world cup in 2022. In response, the government has recently initiated many large infrastructure projects, including sports stadiums and an upgraded light-rail transportation system.

Despite owning such vast wealth, Qatar is often criticized for being behind on education, refusing to acknowledge women’s rights and having affiliations with radical Islam. There exists a significant disparity in the quality of life between the rich and the poor classes, and infrastructure is limited in poorer regions. Ironically, even the world’s richest country must continue to focus on developing and improving the overall quality of life for citizens.

Kailey Dubinsky

Photo: Flickr


The water quality in Qatar is improving, and experts say that both the tap and bottled water is usually safe to drink. However, those who live in the country should be cautious with imported water.

According to the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, or QEERI, tap and bottled water in Qatar is “very safe to drink.” The organization conducted a study looking at 113 samples of tap water and 62 samples of bottled water with favorable.

Based on QEERI’s findings, the water quality in Qatar complies with guidelines set by both the World Health Organization and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

QEERI confirmed that the water did not contain dangerous levels of contaminants, such as lead and arsenic, which can affect the taste and smell of the water in addition to causing health problems.

Nora Kuiper, a leading researcher for the project, said that the quality of water in Qatar is superior, contrary to any preconceived notions that residents might have.

“The quality of Qatar’s drinking water is very high, higher than many local consumers think,” Kuiper said.

Candace Rowell, another researcher for this project, said that the most important outcome of the study was finding that tap and bottled water are comparably safe.

“The real takeaway message is that tap water in the country is just as safe as bottled water, either locally produced or imported brands,” Rowell said.

The main concern that the study addressed was that imported water was not always up to standards. According to QEERI, some samples of imported water showed higher concentrations of contaminants, such as arsenic.

According to Doha News, researchers have expressed concerns regarding the mineral content and how this affects the water quality in Qatar. The study found that while water is typically free from harmful chemicals and bacteria, it can lack vital minerals. According to this article, at least 50 percent of Qatar’s water supply requires extensive salt removal due to the country’s limited access to freshwater.

Jerome Nriagu, a professor emeritus at the School of Public Health and Research and the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan said that this “synthetic” water lacks essential minerals.

“By constantly drinking water with low potassium and magnesium, you increase the risk of getting obesity and hypertension, and [certain] metabolic disorders,” Nriagu said.

Nriagu said that it would be beneficial for officials to add essential minerals to better the water quality in Qatar.

“We’re not getting enough from our foods to start with, and now drinking [this type of] water compounds the problem,” Nriagu said.

Leah Potter

Photo: Flickr


As the war in the Middle East rages on, many people are forced to leave their homes due to violence and intolerance. As a result, millions of people from the Middle East are seeking refuge. Qatar, home to 2.7 million people, is a peninsular Arab country located on the Persian Gulf. Many Syrian refugees have tried to flee to Qatar but are unable to do so. Here are 10 facts about refugees in Qatar.

10 Crucial Facts to Know About Refugees in Qatar

  1. A refugee is someone forced to leave their country to escape a disaster.
  2. Despite being an extraordinarily wealthy country, Qatar has resettled no refugees.
  3. Many Gulf countries, including United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, have also turned down Syrian refugees.
  4. There are more than 13.5 million people in Syria who are in need of humanitarian assistance. Five million Syrian refugees currently live inTurkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.
  5. Qatar has earned vocal criticism for its refusal to accept refugees.
  6. Why are there no refugees in Qatar? Many experts blame visa restrictions, which make it difficult for Syrians to enter countries along the Gulf.
  7. Officials from Qatar defend the country by pointing out that their country donates millions of dollars to the United Nations to help refugees.
  8. In an exclusive interview, Qatari Foreign Minister Dr. Khalid Al-Attiyah further defended Qatar. He stated, “The state of Qatar is in no way falling short in its responsibilities when it comes to the Syrian crisis.” He reminded people that Qatar has launched many programs to help Syrian refugees, including humanitarian, economic and diplomatic initiatives.
  9. This is true, as seen in an initiative by Qatar back in 2012. In partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,  Sheikha Moza, a member of Qatar’s royal family, launched a $12 million education program that will help dozens of countries fund schooling for 172,000 refugee children.
  10. Despite Qatar’s financial aid, many experts believe Qatar must do more. The U.N. has requested that all developed nations open their borders to refugees, including Qatar.

Overall, Qatar’s response to the refugee crisis is quite controversial. Qatar has donated millions of dollars to help refugees, but it has yet to accept any refugees into its own borders. The hope for the future is that there will be more opportunities for Syrian refugees in Qatar.

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr

Education in QatarWhile Qatar’s location — Surrounded by Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, and Iraq — makes it a hot spot of human rights violations and war, education in the country is blossoming.

Public education in Qatar was first established in 1952. Since then, the Muslim nation has created entities to preserve the heritage and uphold the integrity of the nation.

One such body is the Supreme Education Council (SEC). Dedicated to creating, “Education for a New Era,” the SEC focuses on modernizing standards and making education highly accessible, regardless of economic status. The SEC also subsidizes independent schools, which cover elementary, intermediary, and secondary educational stages.

Within the public sector, there is a specialization of education exclusively for boys, which include a religious institute, a secondary school of commerce, and a secondary school of technology.

Additionally, the SEC created several institutes concentrating on special education. Originally separated by gender, the Al Amal School for Boys and Al Amal School for Girls now provide an education for both genders.

Qatar also offers many private and public universities, including Qatar University, Weill Cornell College of Medicine in Qatar, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

In order to achieve Qatar’s 2030 national vision in human development, education in Qatar focuses on the exploration of information and communication technology, both in the learning and teaching processes.

To create this vision, Qatar has developed the Exploring ICT Education Conference. Now in its seventh year, the keynote speakers gave presentations addressing topics such as digital literacy, Lego EV3 robotics, and security awareness.

One of the most recent initiatives to increase education standards and development in Qatar is the leading nonprofit Qatar Foundation that serves the people of Qatar by supporting and operating programs in three essential areas: education, science and research, and community expansion.

The nonprofit organization is responsible for collaborations, such as seminars to promote intercultural communication at the Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar University’s, which were held in July.

Education in Qatar is rapidly growing. With the aid and support of the government, the education sector demonstrates the potential to provide access to high-quality education for all, as well as the ability of traditions to be modernized, while maintaining their integrity.

Veronica Ung-Kono

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Qatar

The Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics disclosed on June 6, 2016 that 1.4 million people, nearly 60% of Qatar’s population, live in what the Qatari government officially labels as “labor camps.”

Migrants from poorer countries have moved to Qatar in recent years to develop its infrastructure for tourism projects, including preparation for the 2022 World Cup.

However, migrant workers continue to live a life of poverty in Qatar, with many human rights groups like Amnesty International condemning Qatar for providing “squalid and cramped accommodation” for its very large migrant workforce.

According to Amnesty International, migrant workers are also not paid for several months at a time, which puts significant emotional and financial pressures on workers already burdened with heavy debts.

Recently, 13 people died in a fire that broke out in a labor camp for migrants working on a waterfront tourism project in southwest Qatar. The fire highlights how Qatar has treated migrant workers by providing poor living conditions for them.

The government responded to criticism by building new housing complexes for workers, including a city south of Doha. This new city, known as “Labour City,” will include cinemas, shops and a cricket stadium for migrant workers.

Outside of the government, various organizations have also assisted migrant workers to overcome their life of poverty in Qatar. One such organization is Reach Out to Asia (ROTA), a member of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development.

On June 8, ROTA launched its Ramadan Project 2016, bringing together over 100 local volunteers to pack and distribute bulk groceries to more than 200 families in need across Qatar.

ROTA volunteers packaged food parcels containing items such as flour, cooking oil, milk powder and lentils that were later distributed before the start of Ramadan. The program also provided beneficiary families with shopping vouchers to purchase other products.

ROTA volunteers, numbering 300, partook in several community service activities set to take place over the month, including the installation of computer labs for migrants working on construction projects.

Despite living a life of poverty in Qatar, migrant workers are slowly overcoming hardships through additional assistance by the government and various organizations.

Alexis Pierce

Photo: Flickr

FIFA-Qatar-Kafala-System
The recent scandal surrounding corruption at FIFA has made headlines around the world. But could it affect the controversial 2022 World Cup in Qatar?

That remained in question Friday as FIFA re-elected Sepp Blatter as its president. The election comes on the heels of a massive corruption investigation involving the top brass of soccer’s governing body. The U.S. Department of Justice indicted 14 of the organization’s executives on dozens of separate charges this week. They are accused of “brazen corruption” in their dealings with sports marketing companies which generate billions for the organization.

FIFA is also accused of dishonesty in its selection process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively. The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland announced Wednesday that it would investigate “criminal mismanagement and money laundering” suspected to have taken place during the bidding process.

Though both selections raised eyebrows among soccer fans, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has proven to be the most controversial. The Gulf state has been widely accused of human rights abuses in its preparation for the event.

Migrant laborers seeking work in Qatar submit to a labor scheme, known as the kafala system, through which host companies “sponsor” foreign laborers. Upon arrival, many workers find their documentation confiscated and their rights severely limited. They sometimes work twelve hour days, seven days a week.

According to the International Labor Organization, the scheme is tantamount to slavery. An investigation by The Guardian found Nepalese workers in Qatar were dying at a rate of one every two days in 2014. Documents produced by that report list worker deaths caused by crushing and electrocution.

Without documentation papers, workers are prevented from ever leaving. Employers also withhold pay to suppress dissent.

Migrant workers play an enormous role in the economy of Qatar. Almost 90 percent of the country’s population is foreign-born and 99 percent of the private sector is foreign. Though human rights organizations and governments have complained, little has been done to address these issues.

Much of the work being conducted in this manner is in preparation for the 2022 World Cup, with contractors using the cheap labor to build facilities for the event.

If the current FIFA crisis continues, it will almost certainly jeopardize Qatar’s hosting opportunity. Sponsors have already begun to re-evaluate their relations with the organization and it is likely many will drop out.

As for the 2018 World Cup in Moscow, Blatter received a stamp of approval from another controversial president: Vladimir Putin. On Thursday, Putin said the investigation was an attempt to thwart Blatter’s re-election. The Russian leader, who was a champion of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, called the investigation “a grave violation of principles of international organization.”

– Kevin McLaughlin

Sources: Department of Justice, The Guardian, Human Rights Watch, Swiss Attorney General
Photo: Zee News

 

kafala system
Exploitation of migrant workers in Qatar has become an increasingly pressing issue since the implementation of the Kafala labor system. The Kafala system requires migrant workers to have a sponsor, usually their employee, to monitor their work and to control their visa and legal status. These sponsors, however, often prevent their laborers from moving jobs and have been known to either underpay or deny their employees pay.

Many workers from India, Sri Lanka and Nepal have been attracted by false promises from Qatari employers, but once contractually committed, they cannot leave the country without the permission of their sponsor.

Reporters from The Guardian ventured to some of these labor camps west of Doha and met 25-year-old Ujjwal Thapa from Nepal. He came to Qatar to work in order to send money back to his family, but had not been paid for months. His employer has his passport so he cannot leave, and upon his arrival, his family was required to take out a loan of 660 pounds from a private lender that has an interest rate of 48 percent per year.

Question as to whether Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup has been a topic of concern due to these human trafficking issues. In their report on human trafficking, the U.S. state department wrote that, “initial consent of a construction worker to accept hard work in a harsh environment does not waive his or her right to work free of abuse. When an employer or laborer recruiter deceives a worker about the terms of employment, withholds their passports, holds them in brutal conditions and exploits their labor, the workers are victims of trafficking.”

Eight to 12 stadiums would need to be built for the 2022 games, and although the Qatar organizing committee reported that no one had died yet building the stadiums, that is only due to the fact that the true building process has not yet begun. Between 2012 and 2013, 450 Indian laborers died and 184 Nepali workers have died in the past year.

General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, Sharan Burrow, predicts that if the Kafala system does not change, 4,000 workers will lose their lives in preparation for the 2022 world cup.

The U.S. State Department is looking to end this system by May of 2015, and in their report on human trafficking, they noted that Qatar has promised to reform these unjust labor practices. Although no serious changes have been made to improve the labor system, Burrow believes that the Qatari government will change the system if refusing to change will deny them the chance to host the World Cup in 2022.

— Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: The Guardian, BusinessWeek, New York Times
Photo: DohaNews

Slavery in qatar
When many people think about the term “slavery,” they may reflect on it as a historical institution of the imperial powers of the West. They may even erroneously deem slavery as a decrepit artifact of the past. However, although many history textbooks tend to portray slavery as strictly a practice of the colonial and imperial past, this horrendous institution remains extant throughout many parts of the modern world, Qatar being one of them.

The very same countries that are thought of as exotic vacation hot-spots may also be teeming with covert slave trades. After all, since only a handful of nations are as developed and as advanced as the Western world, some of these less-developed nations rely on slave networks to buttress their nascent economies. For instance, the blistering topic of an emerging controversy unveiled by an investigation by The Guardian, slavery in Qatar has captured media attention because Qatar has purportedly used slave labor in its endeavors to prepare for World Cup 2022.

One may find it ironic that intense mistreatment can exist in a country whose population is composed primarily of migrant workers, however, it is an undeniable reality for many laborers in Qatar. Among Qatar’s two million residents, a paltry 225,000 are natural citizens with the rest of the populace primarily comprised of South Asian migrant workers. These workers hail from less-developed nations such as India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Qatari officials view the World Cup 2022 as a ceremony in which not only the classic sport of soccer is honored, but also in which cultural relations can be repaired. To prepare for the ceremony, Qatar is investing a reported $100 billion on infrastructure in addition to another $20 billion toward renovating roads and constructing new roads and stadiums. However, behind the glimmering windows and cascading high-rises lurks the masked scandal of slave labor.

According to the International Trade Union Confederation, approximately 4,000 South Asian workers will perish before the festivities of the World Cup 2022 even begin. Furthermore, an investigation by The Guardian unearthed shocking maltreatment of Nepalese laborers who have to endure conditions such as lack of water, food, payment and legal identification. With such horrific conditions, one may wonder how these laborers would ever agree to work for such exploitative employers. However, these unsuspecting migrant workers, eager to earn money and support their starving families, are often tricked into signing false contracts. For instance, workers are given one contract before arriving to Qatar, but upon arrival, they are given a second, demeaning contract. When news broke of the slave-like treatment of migrant workers, there was subsequent backlash.

In order to mitigate subsequent backlash, Qatar officials stated that they would replace the present kafala system with a more democratic system. The kafala system is a sponsorship system in which workers are bound to an all-powerful and oftentimes boundless employer. In a statement issued by the human rights director of the Qatari interior ministry, Colonel Abdullah Saqr al-Mohannadi, the Colonel professes that “We are going to abolish the kafala system and it will move to the legislative institutions… It will be replaced by a contractual relationship between employer and employee.”

Colonel Abdullah Saqr al-Mohannadi also proposes to modify this system by facilitating workers’ ability to obtain exit visas in order to leave their sponsor in the event of mistreatment or simply just a desire to seek other employment. A substantial portion of these reforms are based on advice from DLA Piper, a London law firm that had been mandated with the task of reviewing the implementation of revised labor laws in Qatar. For instance, DLA Piper proposed that a sponsor would be required to show substantial and viable proof supporting his or her objection to permitting a worker to terminate their labor services. Other reform proposals include implementing sanctions against inadequate employers and engendering a more closely-working relationship between the workers’ home countries and their host country.

Although the proposals by DLA may point to an easy resolution, the chances of Qatar following through on these orders is a topic of question and doubt. One major concern from Amnesty International is that although Qatar proposes modifications to the kafala system, all reforms must ultimately be verified and approved by the shura, or advisory council, that legislates many Emirate nations. According to Amnesty International, the shura is expected to strongly oppose the aforementioned proposed changes to the long-standing kafala system due to feared economic consequences.

For instance, Nicholas McGeehan, an activist from Human Rights Watch, voiced his concern by blatantly stating, “The notion that the kafala system can be abolished by no longer referring to a sponsor but an employer-employee relationship is utterly preposterous.” McGeehan’s statement captures the concern that many proponents of reform in Qatar face.

Is the government going to implement adequate change or attempt to shroud the issue with a simple name change?

– Phoebe Pradhan

Sources:New York Times, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian