Lebanon launches major campaign to slash alarming rise in obesity

Lebanese officials aim to shed light on the health dangers associated with obesity and how to prevent them. (Shutterstock)
Updated 01 August 2019

Lebanon launches major campaign to slash alarming rise in obesity

  • Increase in diabetes among young people partly blamed on parents and lifestyle changes

BEIRUT: Lebanon on Wednesday launched a major campaign aimed at cutting rising levels of obesity in the country.

The health risks associated with being overweight will be highlighted as part of the awareness drive announced by Lebanese Health Minister Jamil Jabak.

The initiative comes in the wake of a World Health Organization (WHO) report which ranked Lebanon sixth among nine Middle Eastern and North African countries on a list of the world’s most overweight countries. Lebanon was preceded by Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Libya.

Children and young people will be among the groups specifically targeted in the campaign running under the title, “Your health cannot bear it; lose some weight.”

Lebanese officials aim to shed light on the health dangers associated with obesity and how to prevent them, focusing on chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Campaign coordinator, Dr. Akram Shatti, from the Lebanese Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Lipids, told Arab News that obesity in Lebanon had worsened due a growth in the number of fast-food restaurants, and increased consumption of fatty and processed foods.

Lifestyle changes were also a factor, he said, with many Lebanese spending long hours sat watching television or playing video games. He pointed out that the rate of obesity in people aged 20 and above ranged between 20 and 28 percent.

“Endocrinologists in Lebanon are beginning to notice a rise in diabetes rates in young people, and this is caused by obesity. It is true that there are hormonal and genetic causes, but we have also seen a change in the daily lifestyle in the Middle East and GCC countries resulting specifically from a lack of activity,” Shatti added.

“Lebanon does not have accurate statistics on the impact of previous awareness campaigns, but we have begun to witness a greater awareness of obesity, and patients now visit doctors on their own to seek help in fear of complications caused by obesity.”

Jabak said parents and carers were partly to blame for the country’s obesity problems. “Three percent of the children in Lebanon suffer from obesity, which may be mostly caused by genetics, but all other children are born with a normal weight that gradually changes due to a lifestyle that leads them to gain weight and become obese when they grow up.

“It is sad that raising children depends on rewarding them with candies and fast foods, which are filled with fat and grease. This leads to the development of habits they cannot break when they are older because they grow to prefer unhealthy food to home-cooked food, and this puts them on the road to obesity,” added Jabak.

The minister stressed that working out was the primary mechanism for fighting obesity and boosting immunity and he urged parents to encourage their children to do more exercise instead of spending hours on electronic devices.

Last year, the Lebanese Ministry of Health organized a national day to combat obesity in children after the country’s former health minister, Ghassan Hasbani, revealed figures showing obesity rates among Lebanon’s youngsters rose to 13 percent between 1990 and 2014, one of the highest levels in the Middle East.

The 2018 campaign gave children 10 tips to apply on a daily basis, including sleeping for at least 10 hours, laughing heartily nine times, hugging lovingly, drinking seven glasses of water, eating fruit, grains and protein, working out for one hour, and spending no more than 60 minutes playing video games and watching television.


Yemen prisoner exchange talks open in Switzerland

United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths. (AP)
Updated 19 September 2020

Yemen prisoner exchange talks open in Switzerland

  • The Yemen conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, and sparked what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis

GENEVA: Rival parties in Yemen’s war opened UN-sponsored talks on Friday aimed at an exchange deal for the release of more than 1,400 prisoners, the UN said.
The internationally recognized government and Iran-backed Houthi rebels agreed to exchange some 15,000 detainees as part of peace deal brokered by the UN in Sweden in 2018.
The two sides have since made sporadic prisoner swaps, but the release of 900 loyalists in exchange for 520 insurgents — if it materializes — would mark the first large-scale handover since the war erupted in 2014.
“The #Yemen Prisoners & Detainees Committee meeting started today. I am grateful to #Switzerland for hosting it & to @ICRC for co-chairing,” UN envoy Martin Griffiths tweeted, without giving an exact location for the talks.

FASTFACT

The two sides have since made sporadic prisoner swaps, but the release of 900 loyalists in exchange for 520 insurgents — if it materializes — would mark the first large-scale handover since the war erupted in 2014.

“My message to the Parties is: conclude discussions, release detainees swiftly, bring relief to thousands of Yemeni families,” he wrote.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), for its part, said it was ready to help with the return of detainees to their families.
A source close to Yemen’s presidency said on Wednesday that the talks in Switzerland would “lay out the final touches” after agreement was reached with the ICRC “on all logistical arrangements.”
Gen. Nasser Mansour Hadi, brother of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, along with several politicians and journalists, would be among those released, he said.
A former senior intelligence official, the general has been held by the rebels ever since they overran Sanaa in late 2014.
The Yemen conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, and sparked what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.