Shaken baby syndrome ‘is child abuse’

(Courtesy image)
Updated 27 June 2016
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Shaken baby syndrome ‘is child abuse’

ABHA: On average, between 200 and 300 cases of violence are recorded annually against infants and children in Saudi Arabia.
This was revealed by Maha Al-Muneef, executive director of the National Family Safety program. According to her, shaken baby syndrome (SBS) is one of the forms of abuses that happens with infants under the age of two when they are held by the arm or under the arm, shaken violently and then thrown on the ground or on a bed.
This results in three possible physical injuries. The first is bleeding in the brain due to moving the head rapidly back and forth which causes the brain to move inside the skull and which may rupture blood vessels that feed the brain. Second, internal bleeding in the eye socket because of the intense movement of shaking the baby’s head back and forth. Third, the presence of fractures in the rib cage due to the way one holds the child under his or her arms.
She pointed out that there are cases of breathing difficulty due to SBS which has not been diagnosed. She stressed that there is not enough information in Saudi society about the seriousness of the matter as a result of intense and violent shaking. She said it is necessary to educate pediatricians about the syndrome and how to diagnose it early in order to protect children from the consequences.
She indicated that the consequences can be disastrous for the child, and can in some cases lead to brain death, vision loss or mental disability.
Al-Muneef mentioned the National Family Safety Program’s role through its “Don’t Shake Me” campaign which was implemented in National Guard hospitals. In this program, social medical teams educate mothers about this syndrome, which in turn every mother conveys to the father and those who take care of the child.
Concerning the causes of violent shaking, Al-Muneef explained that these are related to the child’s continued crying as a result of colic, especially in the first months after birth, or illness and disability that requires extra care from the parents. These reasons should be communicated to parents who may be young, lack experience and be short-tempered.
Other reasons for the occurrence of violence against children may be poverty, unemployment, addiction, society’s weak culture and the lack of enforcement of laws and deterrent punishment against violators.
Although the SBS is child abuse, the syndrome, unfortunately, is not generally accepted or recognized by health professionals or parents.
Al-Muneef emphasized the Ministry of Health’s efforts to present the “Don’t Shake Me” campaign and all its elements in the coming months to all the ministry’s hospitals in order to spread awareness among mothers and families.
She said that similar projects had proved their worth in other countries where the frequency of violence against children had been significantly reduced.
These programs are usually presented in hospitals to explain the preventive methods of violent head injuries, and teach the mother how to deal with crying babies.
Al-Muneef added that the campaign is presented by the National Family Safety Program as a proposal to raise awareness among mothers of the importance of fighting SBS in a competition conducted by the King Khalid Foundation. The program won the best proposal and work plan for a national development project and was financially supported by the King Khalid Foundation in September 2011.
Through the awareness lectures, more than 6,000 mothers have been educated about SBS during this campaign.


Flying high as first Saudi pilot of world’s largest aircraft

Updated 28 min 32 sec ago
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Flying high as first Saudi pilot of world’s largest aircraft

  • Wesam Sameer Al-Najjar, also the youngest KSA national to fly the A380, has big dreams
  • Al-Najjar has flown the A318, A319, A320, A330 and A330 Cargo aircraft, among others

ABU DHABI: As the first Saudi A380 pilot in the world, senior first officer Wesam Sameer Al-Najjar has already spent nearly 4,000 hours in the cockpit and flown to more than 100 countries, all before his 29th birthday later this month.

Having joined Etihad Airways in 2013, Al-Najjar has flown the A318, A319, A320, A330 and A330 Cargo aircraft, among others. It was in 2016 that the Saudi national was selected to fly the A380 as the world’s first Saudi pilot of the world’s largest aircraft. To date, he is still the youngest Saudi national to have flown the Airbus. 

Among his biggest achievements was being selected to co-pilot Etihad’s flagship Year of Zayed-branded A380 on a special flight to Jeddah to mark the Kingdom’s National Day on Sept. 23 this year.

“It was such an honor to fly this flight,” he said. “Taking it all the way to Jeddah, the first Etihad A380 to fly this route. It was great to be part of a movement that reflects a great relationship between the two countries.

“Flying an A380 is incredible; you fly a cruising speed of 575mph all the way into the sky. To fly such a big aircraft motivates me to learn more, to study more, to achieve more. To know more and more about the world of aviation.”

When he received the email to say he had been selected as an A380 pilot, Al-Najjar was just 26.

“It was a huge honor and a dream come true and something that continues to motivate me,” said Al-Najjar. “I was very proud of myself. It was my dream.

“I remember receiving an email through flight operations. I just felt so happy. To fly the biggest aircraft in the world with destinations to London, Paris, New York and Sydney — it was a true honor and a dream — and I would say a large part was due to my family support and Etihad’s support, the UAE government’s support and the Saudi government’s support.”

One of 10 children, with four older brothers and five sisters, Al-Najjar said the first person that he called was his uncle, having lost both his father and mother. “He told me he was very happy and he is very proud of me,” said Al-Najjar. “He has supported me all my life.”

Growing up in western Saudi Arabia, in the city of Madinah, Al-Najjar said that he first envisioned being an engineer, but in his late teens decided being a pilot would be a “the perfect job” — and to pursue his dream after graduating from high school.

After a brief spell in London to brush up on his English, Al-Najjar moved to the UAE. There  he enrolled in EDIC Horizon International Flight Academy, a flight school in Al Ain, when he was just 19. He trained alongside his older brother Wadi Al-Najjar, now 33, who is also with Etihad, co-piloting the A320. 

“There was only myself and my brother and a girl who was from Saudi Arabia,” he recalled. “I was one of the youngest guys in the group.”

After 18 months in the academy, which also saw him train in Bahrain, Al-Najjar secured his pilot credentials at the age of 21 and joined Etihad shortly afterwards.

The lifestyle of his chosen profession is the most rewarding aspect of his job. “You fly everywhere,” he said. “You fly cold weather, warm weather. It is a wonderful job; it makes you learn more about different cultures by seeing many places in the world. Every flight is a new experience; new cultures, different flight crew, different personalities, different countries. And you really gain a family; sitting with a co-pilot for 16 hours and traveling with the flight crew; it really is a bonding experience.”

Paris, London and the south of France remain his favorite destinations, but Al-Najjar said a stand-out trip was working with Etihad partner airline Air Seychelles on the A320, where he had a “wonderful time” exploring the archipelago of islands in the Indian Ocean.

“I also loved the Maldives, China and exploring West Africa and Uganda. I have been to many, many countries, more than 100.”

In his career there are few places Al-Najjar, who co-pilots four flights a month, has yet to fly to.

“I am so grateful to Etihad airlines; it is one of the biggest airlines in the world and the fastest growing. They have a great team, and I am happy to be in the UAE and feel like I am in my home country. There is a really deep relationship between my country and the UAE government. And I would like to thank the UAE government, together with Saudi’s government, for their joint support and helping me reach all my achievements. I would love one day to meet all them. It would be such an honor.”

Despite the sheer size of the plane and being responsible for the 500-plus passengers on board, Al-Najjar said that he never gets nervous before a take-off or landing. “It is always two people in the cockpit, so we take care of the responsibilities from point A to point B. But I never feel nervous. If you are knowledgeable and know what you are doing, you are not nervous. The difficult — but best part — of the flight is the landing.”

So what is next for Al-Najjar? “It would be great to also be one of the top guys — whether here in Etihad or back Saudi Arabia’s airlines — to play a major role in aviation. But maybe one day I will even get to fly the royal flights for Saudi Arabia or the UAE. That would be a real honor. I hope it will be an achievement in the future.”

He also said it would be “a dream” to co-pilot a flight with his brother, and one day he aims to train other young aspiring pilots. “It would be great to be in management, and I think that is a consideration for the future.”

Any words of wisdom for aspiring pilots? “You have to be responsible. It is a big role. You have to be really keen to learn more. But I would say it is one of the best jobs in the world, so I would recommend people to join the aviation industry. I think many young Saudis would love to be pilots, and they are studying to do so — especially now there is a new cadet program for Saudi National and the establishment of a new flight academy, the CAE Oxford Authorized Training Center in Dammam. I think there are many Saudi youth — women and men — who want to fly and I hope one day more will do so.”