The country of Oman (officially know as Sultanate of Oman), located on the Arabian peninsula, can provide an example of a recovered and thriving healthcare system. Since 1970, Oman has been developing a highly esteemed healthcare system that is based on an efficient three-tiered system. The primary care model has produced a considerably healthier population compared to 50 years ago.

Oman’s Healthcare Progress

The progress of healthcare in Oman is represented in the statistics. Before His Majesty Sultan Qaboos first sat on the Omani throne in 1970, only 13 doctors were working for the 724,000 citizens of Oman. Since then, the number of doctors, as well as the number of hospitals, have grown tremendously. In 1958 there were only 2 hospitals while today there are 70 hospitals that are world-renowned for their medical treatment. There was also a significant growth in life expectancy from around 50 years in 1970 to over 76 years today.

At the beginning of his reign, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos made universal healthcare a goal, pushing for additional resources and policies to create accessible healthcare. The commitment of the government, including a law that ensures that the government will invest “in health care as a means of ensuring citizens’ well-being,” proved to be the momentum that the healthcare system needed to expand. With this commitment, a large amount of the government’s revenue from gas and oil, one of Oman’s largest exports, provided the healthcare sector the funding it needed to build hospitals, and improve medical staff and policy. By 2000, healthcare in Oman was ranked number eight in the world by the World Health Organization.

Moving Toward Universal Care

In addition to funding, healthcare needs policies to create a strong and lasting infrastructure. The platform on which Oman would grow its healthcare sector toward universal care was the focus on free primary care for all citizens. The aforementioned three-tiered healthcare system implemented in the Oman consists of primary care (hospitals at a local level), secondary care (care from a regional and district level), and tertiary care (any national care a citizen might receive.) By funding and creating ubiquitous accessibility for primary care, citizens can access healthcare in their community and be directed into a higher level or specialty if needed. Free primary healthcare for all has increased the quality and efficiency of healthcare in Oman.

Preventative Care

Healthcare in Oman has been effective in increasing life expectancy, decreasing child mortality and detecting diseases because there is a focus on preventative care. Preventive care is intertwined with the idea of accessible primary care because it encourages early detection of disease as well as easy and unburdened emergency care. Citizens can access the care they need without worrying about the cost of visiting a hospital in an emergency. In addition, the increasing amount of doctors who have an international perspective allows citizens to be better informed about their health issues and for doctors to take proactive measures in stopping development.

The progress made by Oman’s healthcare sector has caused significant positive change. From the efficient use of oil and gas revenue in the funding of hospitals to free primary healthcare for all, healthcare in Oman has arranged a secure and community-based framework that promises even greater future progress towards exemplary healthcare for all citizens. As the country continues to grow its investment in preventive care as well as the expansion of privatized healthcare, other healthcare systems can learn from Oman’s effective resource and policy implementation that has greatly improved healthcare for its citizens.

– Jennifer Long
Photo: Flickr

Girls Finishing Primary School
The importance of education in lifting a country out of extreme poverty has been well established. Specifically, girls’ education promotes gender equality, raises wages and results in smaller, healthier families. There is an unprecedented increase in girls finishing primary school, allowing them to get educated alongside their male peers.

Income Levels and How they Affect Girls Finishing Primary School

The percentage of girls who can afford to attend (and finish) primary school is directly tied to their country’s income level. Level 1 is extreme poverty; the family can barely afford to eat and must get water from wells. Level 2 is lower-middle income; the family can afford decent food and shoes. Level 3 is upper-middle income; the family can afford running water and basic appliances. Level 4 is high income; the family can afford a nice house and cars.

Level 4: Oman

One hundred percent of girls in Oman finish primary school. Primary school starts at age 6 and continues until age 18, and girls can go to one of 1,045 schools as of 2011. However, back in 1973, when Oman was a Level 1 country, there were only three primary schools with no girls attending them at all. Oman has experienced phenomenal advances in both poverty reduction and girls’ education.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said ascended the throne in 1970 and did not like what he saw. He vowed to improve life for the Omani people. This included, among many other things, opening more schools and allowing girls to attend them. Additionally, he made public school free, allowed private schools to exist and created a comprehensive kindergarten curriculum. With the availability of free education for girls, 100 percent of girls attend and complete primary school.

Level 3: Iraq

In Iraq, 58.8 percent of the nation’s girls finish primary school. This is down from 68 percent in 2004, but it is higher than the 0.722 percent that it was in 1974. At present, girls make up 44.8 percent of students in primary schools.

The Iraqi school system is far from ideal. Uneducated girls, when asked why they do not attend school, cite abusive teachers, poverty, the presence of boys and concerns about domestic and national safety. Those who do go to school endure dirty bathrooms, a lack of clean drinking water and the aforementioned abusive teachers. Despite this, there are enough girls finishing primary school in Iraq to keep the country out of extreme poverty in the next generation.

Level 2: Morocco

In Morocco, 94.7 percent of girls finish primary school. This is a stark increase from 22.9 percent in 1972. After King Mohammed the Sixth ascended the throne on July 30, 1999, he began placing more focus on the education of his people. His efforts have impacted girls more than boys, as shown by the fact that only 9 percent of girls have to repeat any grades in primary school, which is less than the 13 percent of boys who have to do so. Although this has done little to improve women’s reputations as workers thus far, it is still a victory for the country.

Level 1: Myanmar

In Myanmar, 89.3 percent of girls finish primary school. This number was only 30.8 percent in 1971 for a simple reason: extreme poverty. While schooling itself is technically free, parents still need to pay for uniforms and supplies, and boys are favored over girls in terms of whom parents will spend money on. Sometimes, girls as young as 4 years old are sent to schools in Buddhist monasteries, which means being separated from their families.

However, help is being provided by the international community. Educational Empowerment is an American organization dedicated to promoting educational equality in Southeast Asia. It develops and supports schools in Myanmar, publishes books, and gives microloans to mothers to help get their daughters into school. This has helped girls catch up to their male peers and finish primary school.

For girls, getting an education has historically not been an easy task. Between the cost of school attendance, the existence of extreme poverty and general gender inequality, girls often fall behind their male peers when it comes to receiving an education. However, thanks to new government rulings and help from nonprofit organizations, there are now more girls finishing primary school than ever before, and the number is set to rise even higher. In the near future, girls’ education will be on par with that of their male counterparts. This is important because educating girls leads to educated women, and educated women can help lift a country out of extreme poverty.

– Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr

Education in Oman

Beginning with a push in the 1970s, the Omani education system has flourished, as nearly all school-aged children are attending school. However, the government of Oman has declared that not only do they intend to maintain the achievements made thus far, but they also fully expect to further enhance and improve the quality and efficiency of education in Oman.

Statistically, the concentration Oman has put on its peoples’ education is illustrated clearly through the literacy rates in the country. From 2008 to 2012, UNICEF reported the literacy rate amongst youths (15 to 24 years) to be over 97 percent. Surprisingly, females showed a stronger literacy rate than males. Unsurprisingly, the literacy rates were nearly identical to UNCIEF’s reported net primary school enrollment ratio.

Primary school is the first step in the Omani education system. It constitutes a six-year, basic level of education. Following this, students may attend a middle level of schooling. Upon completion of this second step, students have either completed their education and go on to work or they have academically qualified to continue into secondary schooling. At this point, students are given the option to specialize in either the sciences or arts – this requires the school to confirm the students’ proficiencies. Both programs result in a school certificate and, dependent on each student’s secondary school performance, provides a key into one of Oman’s nine colleges or the sole state university. The best part about public education in Oman is that it is given free of charge.

Higher education in Oman has seen growth, too. In 2016, Munawar Hameed, Head of Marketing and Public Relations at the Oman College of Management and Technology, reported that college registrations are going up and that more women have enrolled in higher education institutes than men. Further, the government even funds some students to matriculate at overseas universities, including some in the U.S. and UK.

Despite the success in the public education system, the government of Oman has pressed the private sector to make increased efforts in the education system, too. As private schools are held to the same curriculum standards as government schools and administer the same tests, there is little room for innovation. However, there is a market space for those who have achieved a higher education and are of Omani nationality to enter the business of schooling. In essence, the government is creating job opportunities, while focusing on promoting a greater education system.

Overall, Oman is successfully navigating the typically troubled waters of education in a poorer nation. However, despite the odds, the push for a more educated citizenry is paying off. The Ministry of Higher Education has done more than its due diligence in improving education in Oman. At the current rate of growth, Omani citizens should soon show nationwide literacy and education, which will place them far ahead of citizens in many surrounding countries.

Taylor Elkins

Photo: Google

Yemeni Refugees in OmanOman is a coastal nation that sits on the Arabian Peninsula, south of Saudi Arabia and east of Yemen. In light of the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis, as well as the ongoing conflict in Yemen, Oman hasn’t been as prominent in the news. However, Yemeni Refugees in Oman are faced with a stark reality.

Oman has taken in many refugees from its neighbor Yemen, which is currently experiencing a civil war sparked by a rough transition of power from longtime authoritarian leader Ali Abdullah Saleh to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, in 2011.

The Houthi rebels, representing Yemen’s Shi’a minority, took advantage of the chaos and seized large swathes of territory, including the capital of Sana’a, while Hadi fled to the coastal city of Aden. Al Qaeda, which has long had a foothold in the region, has also been involved in the conflict. As of May 2017, the U.N. estimated about 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen, mainly civilians.

In response to the increasing instability in Yemen, an eight-nation coalition of Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, launched Operation Storm of Resolve against the Houthis. Oman, while a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council alongside the Saudis, is one of the few nations in the region in the region and the only one in the council not to intervene militarily. Instead, it has opted to support Yemen through humanitarian aid and taking in Yemeni refugees.


Difficult Conditions Facing Yemeni Refugees in Oman


Officially, the Omani government refuses to give the exact numbers of refugees it takes in, but its officials estimate about 2,500 Yemenis live in the country, many illegally. Many of the refugees have lost their families, or come to Oman in search of adequate medical care. According to the U.N., only 45 percent of Yemeni hospitals are fully equipped. By March 2017, about 1,200 Yemeni refugees in Oman have received medical treatment at Omani hospitals, according to Oman’s health ministry.

Oman forbids refugees from working in the country, but many do to send money back home to families who desperately need it, with Omani authorities often turning a blind eye. However, the strain the intake of Yemeni refugees puts on the country has not gone unnoticed. “It is definitely going to be a burden to Oman if the war situation escalates in Yemen,” political analyst Khalfan al Maqbali saisd.

Still, as of now, there are no plans for Yemeni refugees in Oman to be turned away or removed. For the near future, Yemeni refugees in Oman are here to stay.

Andrew Revord

Photo: Flickr

Oman Poverty Rate

The dichotomy of the Middle East region in terms of wealth and quality of life is one that truly boggles the mind. One need not search very far to learn of the tragedies that have befallen countries like Iraq, Syria, and Libya in the 21st century. The war-torn images of these countries are sketched into the collective Western mind. Simultaneously, countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar are home to some of the world’s greatest cities, fabulous wealth and futuristic-looking technologies.

What often goes unnoticed are the countries that fall somewhere in the middle; ones that are not ravaged by war nor blessed with a plethora of natural resources such as oil. The Sultanate of Oman is one such example.

Poverty is a fact of life for many Middle Eastern countries, but Oman is one of the bright spots in the region in terms of poverty reduction and efforts to elevate the quality of life of its citizens. The Oman poverty rate has been on the decline in the last decade and shows signs that it will continue to do so.

Oman created a national strategy in 1970 to spur development in all aspects of life in the country. At that time, Oman had almost no formal education system; by 1999, over 70 percent of children were in primary school. Moreover, in 1970, the life expectancy at birth was near 51 years; that has increased to 78 in 2014, an almost 53 percent increase, which outpaced the world average in the same time frame by 30 percent. Oman’s poverty rate has been reduced significantly because of these improvements.

Since 2000, Oman has reached eight of its Millennium Development Goals, most notably in providing education for all, including women and children, as well as reducing the number of people suffering from extreme hunger.

Entrepreneurial activity is also on the rise in Oman, sponsored mainly by Startup Oman, a Muscat-based fund that facilitates and promotes young Omani entrepreneurs. This fund aims to reduce poverty while simultaneously encouraging creativity in the economy.

The fishing town of Duqm is being radically transformed, thanks in large part to Chinese investments, into one of the country’s central economic hubs. This has boosted employment and spurred economic activity, providing economic opportunities for Omanis.

Even amid a geopolitical spat between other Gulf countries, Omani ports are benefiting from an unusual uptick in traffic, which has resulted in increased economic activity for Omani businesses and workers. While Oman may not want to be seen as profiting from the current row, it will likely solidify its position as a neutral arbiter in regional disputes, as it has for decades. This trend, in tandem with a reduction in Oman’s poverty rate, will allow it to establish itself as a peaceful and prosperous nation in the region.

The combination of government initiatives, foreign investment and an educated population has allowed Oman to improve the lives of its citizens, which is worthy of high praise considering the situation facing other countries in the Middle East.

As long as the government continues to focus on reducing the Oman poverty rate, the Sultanate will surely establish itself as a bright spot in the Middle East.

Daniel Cavins

Photo: Flickr

Noncommunicable Diseases in OmanOman, a country on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, is working to decreases the incidence of noncommunicable diseases on the national and local level. Noncommunicable diseases are a rising problem in Oman. More that 50 percent of the population is overweight, 40 percent of the population are hypertensive and 12 percent of the population is diabetic. One of the most effective ways to combat noncommunicable disease is by regulating and encouraging healthy behaviors. The national government, regional agencies and small businesses are working together to combat noncommunicable diseases in Oman.

The Ministry of Health in Oman has rolled out many regulations to create healthier lifestyles for the population. The most cost effective ways to combat noncommunicable diseases are population-based. The majority of national health policies are related to tobacco control in indoor spaces. The Ministry of Health has also created some guides to encourage healthy eating in Oman. Health education is a mandatory part of school curriculums in Oman. The government found that youth populations can be key in spreading information and inspiring people to make changes.

The Ministry of Health hopes to create a national monitoring system to follow the progress of health indicators like urine sodium content and blood sugar levels. Researchers found that while Oman has several health regulations, the policies are not always implemented well.

Regional agencies are also involved in Oman’s response. The Nizwa Health Lifestyle Project was founded in 1999 to work with the city government and local businesses to reduce noncommunicable diseases. One program, the tobacco-free souk, is looking to prevent tobacco use in outdoor public spaces. The souk is an outdoor marketplace at which residents of Oman spend a lot of time. Nizwa successfully implemented an indoor smoking ban in 2010 and is hoping to expand this success to outdoor areas. Residents of Nizwa supported a tobacco ban nearly unanimously in a survey.

Local restaurants and bakeries are preparing healthier food and breads to prevent noncommunicable diseases in Oman. The Healthy Restaurants Initiative is a pilot program in which restaurants create menus with reduced sodium, fat and sugar. The initiative has been successful so far, but will need time to scale up and expand through the country.

Bakers in Oman are also baking bread with reduced sodium content. The average person in Oman eats 10 grams of salt a day, which is double the World Health Organization’s recommended amount. As bakeries provide 90 percent of the bread products in the country, local bakers can have a large impact on people’s health. In 2015, bakeries successfully reduced the sodium content of their bread by 10 percent. Small changes like these are adding up to help decrease the rate of noncommunicable diseases in Oman.

Sarah Denning

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Oman
Despite Oman’s vast oil reserves, large segments of the population still suffer from poverty. The main causes of poverty in Oman are unemployment, underpayment and lack of economic diversification.

In recent months, the sultanate has received attention for reaching a number of its Millennium Development Goals. Between 1990 and 2015, Oman more than halved extreme poverty and child mortality rates, achieved universal primary school enrollment and promoted gender equality in education.

Nevertheless, thousands of migrant workers still live in poverty, and 40 percent of Oman’s own citizens remain unemployed.

Due to lax labor laws, companies in Oman are not required to pay migrant workers minimum wage. This inequality, coupled with the fact that foreigners are excluded from the 100-rial ($263) monthly allowance distributed by the Omani government, has pushed many migrants into slums. As a result, an estimated 100,000 workers in Oman live like second-class citizens.

Because migrant workers can work for less than minimum wage, many of Omani’s own citizens have a hard time finding work. Despite the sultanate’s recent achievements in primary school enrollment, many Omanis lack the higher-education skills necessary to compete with low-cost foreign labor. For these reasons, almost 40 percent of Omani nationals are unemployed.

Historically, the high unemployment rate has not weighed on Oman’s economy because oil revenues have enabled the government to distribute allowances to its citizens. Since 2014, however, global oil prices have fallen by 50 percent. With oil accounting for 46 percent of Oman’s GDP and 84 percent of government revenues, the price decrease has forced the government to tighten its budget and start taxing citizens—instead of distributing allowances.

Unless the oil market turns around or Oman begins taking serious efforts to diversify its economy, the causes of poverty in Oman may multiply and its progress toward the Millennium Development Goals may reverse. Poverty in Oman will only continue to get worse if changes are not made at a national level.

Nathaniel Sher

Genetic Diseases in OmanGenetic diseases are most prevalent among Arabs and have been mainly attributed to consanguinity. In Oman, a Middle Eastern country located on the Arabian Peninsula, the average rate of genetic diseases is between 5.4 to 7 percent in new live births, exceeding the global average of 4.5 percent.

Consanguinity, advanced maternal age and high rates of inherited blood disorders are substantial contributors to genetic disease in Oman. In fact, 3.5 to 7 per 1,000 Omani live births have a genetic blood disorder, and 60 percent of the population has genes for genetic blood disorders. The most common blood disorder in Oman is a G6PD deficiency, with 12 percent of women and 28 percent of men having the G6PD deficiency gene.

More than 300 different genetic diseases in Oman have been identified. The most common are autosomal recessive disorders, which result from inheriting two mutated genes. Examples of autosomal recessive disorders include cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, Tay-Sachs disease and alpha- and beta-thalassemia. Autosomal recessive conditions are a significant cause of handicap, morbidity, and mortality among Omani children.

Though the birth prevalences of most genetic disorders in Oman are unknown, it has been estimated that Down Syndrome (one in 350 live births) and hemoglobin disorders (3.5 to 4.7 in 1,000 live births) are reaching epidemic levels with more than 100 cases per 100,000 live births.

The apparent rise in rates of genetic diseases in Oman is likely more about previously unidentified cases of genetic diseases being diagnosed than about more Omanis being born with genetic disorders. As diagnosis capacity and expertize have improved, the number of diagnosed conditions has grown.

The development of community-based genetic services and the routinization of early detection and diagnosis in Oman have been followed by the gradual reduction in infant and prenatal mortality. Information-based health education has also been implemented in Oman to improve genetic literacy.

Better services for diagnosing and treating disabling conditions will continue to increase the number of people who need assistance with handicapping genetic diseases. Rising disability rates and a higher number of diagnosed conditions are the necessary precursors of progress toward the prevention and reduction of genetic diseases in Oman.

The government has been working to address the need for more accessible, long-term treatment options in Oman. Their current response is primarily focused on the integration of genetic services into the primary health care system. Involvement of the primary health care system will be the basis for more accessible genetic services for the entire Omani population.

Gabrielle Doran

Photo: Pixabay

Water Oman
Oman is an Arab country located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf with a population of 4.5 million. Due to its booming oil industry, Oman is growing rapidly and both standards of living and water quality are improving. According to World Bank data from the last 20 years, the percentage of people with access to an improved water source has increased from 81% to 93.5%. While water quality in Oman has improved, questions remain surrounding future water supply, especially in rural areas.

The Public Authority for Electricity and Water (PAEW) has been responsible for much of Oman’s improving water quality and access to potable water in the last decade. Founded in 2007, the PAEW has put emphasis on renewable energy solutions and has made a concentrated effort to expand water piping throughout the country, especially in rural areas. One of the PAEW’s main goals for this decade is increasing its water assets and service coverage, aiming to supply piped water to more than 90% of the Omani population.

In response to recent growth, particularly in urban areas such as Muscat, the PAEW and the Omani government launched a $3.4 billion program in 2016 to massively expand its potable water network. With projects such as these, PAEW looks to increase the supply of potable water to 98% of the population by 2040.

With an economic growth rate averaging four percent per year between 2000 and 2016, Oman is one of the fastest-growing countries in the Middle East. This growth, combined with a 9.5% annual increase in consumption, has had a profound effect on Oman’s demand for water in both urban and rural areas. This growth has increased agricultural demand and thus a demand for renewable water resources and infrastructure such as stormwater facilities.

Problems with supply and water quality in Oman in recent years have centered around drought and other environmental issues. Oman faces a serious environmental hazard in coastal pollution caused by oil tanker traffic in the Gulf of Oman. While the Omani government has made strides in promoting renewable water sources and energy, they still lag behind in regulating other environmental issues such as pollution.

One of the biggest threats to water quality in Oman in the future will be extreme weather conditions such as drought and limited rainfall. Though the PAEW is primed to deliver clean potable water to the country’s rapidly growing population, the Omani government must be ready to face other challenges to ensure the health of its citizens.

Nicholas Dugan

Photo: Flickr


Significant progress has been made on the issue of hunger in Oman, including the country already meeting eight of its Millennium Development Goals. The amount of extreme poverty and hunger has been cut in half in Oman since 1990.

The World Food Program defines hunger as undernourishment, or chronic undernourishment. Undernourishment is the result of chronic hunger, that can result in stunted growth in children, the loss of mental and physical abilities, and even death. Undernourishment affects one in six people around the world today.

Another unfortunate result of hunger is referred to as the “under five mortality rate” or the proportion of children who die before reaching the age of five. Hunger plays a large part in this rate, and Oman reduced it’s under five mortality rate by two-thirds since 1990. In fact, the percentage of children under five who were underweight was 9.7 percent in 2014, compared to 23 percent in 1995.

Maternal health is also a big beneficiary of the fight against hunger. As mentioned, undernourishment can have drastic effects on the health and livelihood of individuals, let alone those who are eating for two. Maternal mortality is a huge problem in countries where poverty and hunger rates are high, and Oman was no exception. Since 1990, the maternal mortality rate has been reduced by 75 percent.

Oman has made such strides in the past two decades, that it is now on the other side of the coin. In 2014, Oman donated $1 million to the World Food Program to be used to fight hunger in Mauritania and Senegal, two countries in Africa that are plagued by drought and constant violence.

Success stories like this on hunger in Oman should be built upon for future progression across the board. Oman was near the bottom, with poverty levels and hunger levels affecting the lives of its citizens. Thanks to collaboration from other countries throughout the world, and the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals, Oman has come closer to stabilization than ever before.

Dustin Jayroe

Photo: Flickr