How Bahrain’s capital Manama landed WHO’s coveted ‘Healthy City’ label

Manama, Bahrain’s capital, has been labeled a “Healthy City 2021” by the World Health Organization (WHO) — the first Middle East capital to earn the distinction. (Shutterstock)
Manama, Bahrain’s capital, has been labeled a “Healthy City 2021” by the World Health Organization (WHO) — the first Middle East capital to earn the distinction. (Shutterstock)
Short Url
Updated 14 July 2021

How Bahrain’s capital Manama landed WHO’s coveted ‘Healthy City’ label

Manama, Bahrain’s capital, has been labeled a “Healthy City 2021” by the World Health Organization (WHO) — the first Middle East capital to earn the distinction. (Shutterstock)
  • World body describes “Healthy City” as one that is conscious of health and is striving to improve it
  • The first Middle East city to earn the distinction was honored in June during a virtual ceremony

DUBAI: Bahrain, where Arabian Gulf oil was first discovered, where its first electrical infrastructure was installed, and where its first school for girls was established, has chalked up yet another regional first.

Manama, the island kingdom’s capital, has been labeled a “Healthy City 2021” by the World Health Organization (WHO) — the first Middle East capital to earn the distinction — in recognition of its commitment to creating an environment conducive to human well-being.

“This is a great honor for us,” Sheikh Hisham bin Abdul Rahman Al-Khalifa, the governor of Manama, told Arab News. “We are very happy that we made it and Manama was recognized as the first city in the region as a healthy city.”




Governor of Manama Sheikh Hesham bin Abdulrahman Al-Khalifa. (Supplied)

A “Healthy City,” the WHO says, is defined by a process. It is a city that is conscious of health and is striving to improve it; any city, regardless of its current health status, has the potential to become one.

“A ‘Healthy City’ is one that continually creates and improves its physical and social environments and expands the community resources that enable people to mutually support each other in performing all the functions of life, and developing to their maximum potential,” the WHO explained.

The “Healthy City” concept was launched in 1990 to establish a link between the services provided to citizens and the implementation of sustainable development policies.

The approach seeks to put health high on the political and social agenda of cities, and to build a strong movement for public health at a local level. It strongly emphasizes equity, participatory governance, solidarity, collaboration and action to address the determinants of health.

Successful implementation requires innovation addressing all aspects of living conditions, and extensive networking between cities.




Bahraini policemen seal off a building housing foreign workers in the Salmabad industrial area as a precautionary measure after a resident tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). (AFP/File Photo)

Bahrain joined the WHO Healthy Cities Network in 2015 and initially launched a pilot scheme in the Umm Al-Hassam district of southern Manama. After this won WHO approval in 2018, the kingdom expanded its projects to cover the entire capital, forming a special council to oversee its implementation.

Manama was declared a “Healthy City” in June during a virtual ceremony hosted by the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean.

Like the rest of the world, Bahrain has been hit by coronavirus-induced lockdowns, uncertainty and economic disruption. But now, more than 18 months since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) emerged in China and engulfed nearly every country on the planet, Bahrain appears to have turned the corner. It is currently behind only the UAE and Malta in terms of vaccine doses administered per capita.

Rapid urbanization worldwide has made the concept of healthy cities all the more pertinent. Cities are frequently overcrowded with inadequate means of waste disposal, polluted air, street violence and, in many cases, substandard housing and hazardous working conditions.

In 2018, some 55 percent of the global population lived in cities, according to UN figures. That percentage is forecast to grow to 68 percent by 2050.




Bahraini security forces members tour the Sitra field Intensive Care Unit (ICU) hospital for COVID-19 patients in Sitra island south of the capital Manama on May 4, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

Rising urbanization requires “successful management of urban growth” and better handling of issues relating to housing, transportation and energy, coupled with basic services such as education and healthcare, says the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Today, the majority of Bahrainis live in towns and cities, while an estimated 11.4 percent of the kingdom’s population live in rural areas, according to a 2015 profile published by the WHO in 2017.

Based on several metrics for health and well-being, the kingdom is performing well. Life expectancy at birth now averages 77 years; the literacy rate is 98.2 percent for young people and 94.6 percent for adults.

In a country of 1.641 million people, with a capital city housing 200,000, the health workforce density is 9.1 physicians and 24.1 nurses and midwives per 10,000 people, according to UN figures.

FASTFACTS

* Manama was declared a “Healthy City 2021” in June by the WHO.

* Bahrain’s per capita health spending rose to $1,067 during 2005-13.

* Health spending as a proportion of GDP rose to 4.9% in the same period.

(Source: WHO)

Bahrain’s main environmental risk factors include “air pollution, chemical exposure, housing and environmental determinants of injuries” which “contribute significantly to the burden of noncommunicable diseases and injuries,” according to the WHO.

To qualify as part of the Healthy Cities Network, a city must have a clean, safe physical environment, including good quality housing, an ecosystem that is stable and sustainable in the long term, a strong, mutually supportive and non-exploitative community, and a high degree of participation by citizens over the decisions affecting their lives.

The basic needs of food, water, shelter, safety and work with income must be available to all residents, who must also have access to a wide variety of experiences and resources, including the chance for interaction and communication with others.

Qualifying cities must also have a diverse, vital and innovative economy, along with connectedness to their pasts, accommodating the cultural and biological heritage of city dwellers with others.

It must also have an optimum level of appropriate medical services, accessible to all, and good general health.




Bahrain’s Health Minister Faeqa bint Said Al-Saleh (R) and Capital Governor Sheikh Hesham bin Abdulrahman Al-Khalifa (L). (Supplied)

In a recent interview with Arab News, Dr. Waleed Al-Manea, Bahrain’s undersecretary of the Ministry of Health, said: “Since the start (of the pandemic), we have adopted a strategy of transparency — that’s been very important to us.

“With that transparency, we promised ourselves that we would work with facts rather than with deception. Whenever we have made a decision, it has been informed by facts.”

The WHO states that “the ‘Healthy Cities’ approach recognizes the determinants of health and the need to work in collaboration across public, private, voluntary and community sector organizations.

“This way of working and thinking includes involving local people in decision-making, requires political commitment and organizational and community development, and recognizes the process to be as important as the outcomes.”

Around 70 different projects have been implemented in Manama to help eliminate health risks and to spread awareness, Sheikh Hisham told Arab News.

Among them is the “Green Capital” project to increase the number of parks and public gardens, reduce carbon emissions, “encourage small and medium environmentally-friendly projects, increase awareness on environmental principles, and most importantly, include volunteers in our sustainable development projects. One of these projects was cleaning the beaches,” he added.

An initiative called “Colors, Healing and Happiness” was implemented with the cooperation of the Ministry of Health and around 60 volunteer artists. It followed a study by researchers from Bahrain University examining the effects of colors and drawing on mental health.




A Bahraini police officer instructs a foreign worker to wear his protective mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in the old marketplace of the capital Manama. (AFP/File Photo)

As part of a different project, an online platform called “My Capital” was initiated to facilitate better communication between residents and local government.

Yet another initiative, “You Matter,” was introduced to assist those who have suffered psychologically as a result of COVID-19, with the participation of medical specialists.

On the housing front, dozens of inspections have been made by a specialist committee to ensure safety standards are met. Any buildings that failed to meet its criteria were subject to renovations and modifications.

Sheikh Hisham said 2,627 facilities in Manama had been inspected and up to 97 percent of them were modified to ensure safety measures were put in place.

Up to 2,250 housing units in poorer neighborhoods were modified to improve health and safety standards, including the removal of informal or unauthorized electrical wiring. To reduce overcrowding in some urban districts, around 18,400 low-income workers were moved to other accommodations.

Dozens of old buildings in the industrial areas of Khalifa bin Salman Port have also undergone renovations, while measures have been imposed to ensure residential homes and areas serving food are situated at a safe and healthy distance from industrial areas.

Expressing his gratitude to the citizens of Manama for their cooperation in the city’s restoration and development, Sheikh Hisham said “the process of ‘Healthy Cities’ will continue in the future,” extending to every town and village in Bahrain.

-----------------------

Twitter: @jumanaaltamimi


Moroccans protest mass vaccination rules; some skirmishes

Moroccans protest mass vaccination rules; some skirmishes
Updated 27 October 2021

Moroccans protest mass vaccination rules; some skirmishes

Moroccans protest mass vaccination rules; some skirmishes
  • Decision came into effect Oct. 21 and stipulates that Moroccans must provide proof of vaccination to enter workplaces
  • The pass is also required to access indoor services such as restaurants, banks and travel

RABAT, Morocco: Demonstrators took to the streets in cities around Morocco on Wednesday, some clashing with police as they denounced the country’s decision to require coronavirus vaccination passes to be allowed to work and enter public venues.
The decision came into effect Oct. 21 and stipulates that Moroccans must provide proof of vaccination in order to enter their workplaces. In a statement, the government has said employers have “direct legal responsibility” to enforce the decision.
The pass is also required to access indoor services such as restaurants and banks as well as domestic and international travel.
The North African kingdom of 36 million people has Africa’s highest vaccination rate, with more than 50 percent of the population fully inoculated. Earlier this month, the government also started administering booster shots.
But the abrupt and unusually widespread vaccine requirements have also prompted opposition, and led to big crowds at vaccination centers as people rushed to get shots.
In the capital, Rabat, protesters gathered outside the parliament building and chanted slogans against the rule, arguing that it goes against fundamental human rights and civil liberties. Police formed a line to prevent the angry demonstrators from getting inside the legislature.
A few protesters clashed with police as they were pushed away down Mohammed V Avenue that leads to the parliament building.
Among protesters was Nabila Mounib, a member of parliament and the secretary general of the opposition Unified Socialist Party. She joined the protest after being barred from entering the parliament building for showing up without a vaccination pass.
Similar scenes unfolded in other Moroccan cities, with dozens of protesters taking to the streets in the country’s most populous city, Casablanca, as well as tourist hotspots of Marrakech and Agadir. They shouted “United against the pass!” as police pushed and swung batons at some of the demonstrators in an attempt to disperse them.


Lebanese PM distances self from minister’s Houthi Yemen ‘self-defense’ claim

Lebanese PM distances self from minister’s Houthi Yemen ‘self-defense’ claim
Updated 28 October 2021

Lebanese PM distances self from minister’s Houthi Yemen ‘self-defense’ claim

Lebanese PM distances self from minister’s Houthi Yemen ‘self-defense’ claim
  • The Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council said in a statement he rejected Kordahi’s comments
  • Najib Mikati said George Kordahi’s comments on TV did not reflect government’s, president’s position on Yemen

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Wednesday distanced himself from comments made by the country’s Information Minister George Kordahi suggesting that the Iran-backed Houthis were “defending themselves” in Yemen.

Kordahi had been responding to a question from the host of “Barlamanasha3b,” an Al Jazeera-affiliated youth TV show, asking about his position on the conflict in the war-torn country.

During the interview recorded on Aug. 5, one month before being appointed information minister, Kordahi said: “The Houthis in Yemen are a resistance movement, defending themselves and not attacking anyone.” He added that the group was acting in self-defense against the “Saudi-UAE attack on Yemen.”

Mikati said: “Kordahi’s statement reflects his personal opinion which we do not accept. These comments do not express the government nor the president’s (Michel Aoun) position on the Yemeni issue. Lebanon is committed to its ties with Arab countries.”

When Kordahi’s remarks later surfaced in a video posted online, they sparked a frenzy on social media and an official protest to the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Yemen’s Ambassador to Lebanon Abdullah Al-Deais.

Kordahi replied by saying he had not intended “in any way, to offend the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or the Emirates,” and expressed his “love and loyalty to the leaders and people of the two countries.”

He added: “What I said about the war in Yemen being an absurd war that needs to stop, I said it with conviction, not in defense of Yemen, but also out of love for Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”

Lebanon's Information Minister George Kordahi speaks at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon on Sept.  13, 2021. (REUTERS File Photo)

But Al-Deais said Kordahi had only “added insult to injury, as he did not apologize, but rather confirmed what he had said.”

The Yemeni envoy added: “Kordahi’s remarks go against Lebanon’s clear position toward Yemen and its condemnation of the Houthi coup and its support for all relevant Arab and UN resolutions.”

Following a meeting with Aoun on Wednesday, Mikati added: “It is true that we distance ourselves from conflicts, but we do not distance ourselves from any Arab position in solidarity with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

This position is a constant position, and we look forward to the best relations.

“Kordahi’s comments will not affect the general course, especially since the constants of the Lebanese position on relations with Arab countries were stated in its ministerial declaration. The interview with Kordahi took place before he was appointed minister and was broadcast yesterday,” Mikati said.

Separately, Lebanon’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out that Kordahi’s comments reflected his “personal stand” and “do not reflect the government’s position.”

In a statement, it said: “The ministry has repeatedly condemned the terrorist attacks on Saudi Arabia and maintains its position in defending the security and safety of its Gulf brothers, for whom it holds love, respect, and appreciation, and refrains from interfering in their internal and external policies.”

The Gulf Cooperation Council noted that Kordahi’s remarks showed his limited knowledge and lack of understanding of the situation in Yemen.

GCC Secretary-General Dr. Nayef bin Falah Al-Hajraf condemned, “the Lebanese minister of information’s defense of the Houthi coup group, while ignoring the intransigence of the Houthi movement against all international efforts to end the Yemeni crisis, and at a time when the Saudi Houthi group is targeting missiles and marches, targeting the defenseless Yemeni people, and preventing relief aid from reaching the stricken areas.”

Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Al-Bukhari on Wednesday met with Al-Deais.

In a statement issued by the Saudi embassy, Al-Bukhari reaffirmed “the Kingdom’s position on supporting legitimacy in Yemen, reaching a political solution, in accordance with the terms of reference represented by the Gulf Initiative and its executive mechanism, the outcomes of the Comprehensive National Dialogue Conference and the resolution 2216, in order to preserve Yemen’s unity, integrity, respect its sovereignty and independence, and reject any interference in its internal affairs.

“The Iranian-backed Houthis continue hostilities and terrorist operations by firing ballistic missiles and booby-trapped drones to target civilians and civilian objects in Saudi Arabia, violating international and humanitarian law by using civilian populations in Yemeni civilian areas as human shields, and launching booby-trapped boats and remotely marching, posing a serious threat to regional and international security,” he said.

The Saudi envoy highlighted, “the legitimate right of the Saudi-led coalition to restore legitimacy in Yemen, to take and implement the necessary measures to deal with these hostilities and terrorist attacks, and to prevent the smuggling of weapons into these militias that poses a threat to the freedom of maritime navigation and global trade in the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the Red Sea.”

Al-Bukhari praised “the efficiency” of Saudi air defenses in intercepting and responding to more than 400 ballistic missiles, 791 drones, and at least 205 naval mines.


Supporters prevent Lebanese Forces leader Geagea from attending hearing

Supporters prevent Lebanese Forces leader Geagea from attending hearing
Updated 28 October 2021

Supporters prevent Lebanese Forces leader Geagea from attending hearing

Supporters prevent Lebanese Forces leader Geagea from attending hearing

BEIRUT: Supporters of the Christian Lebanese Forces party on Wednesday blocked roads to leader Samir Geagea’s residence as he failed to turn up for a hearing at army intelligence over fatal clashes in Beirut.
Geagea was summoned to the hearing, scheduled for 9 a.m. local time on Wednesday, amid claims by the Iran-backed Hezbollah and its ally the Amal Movement that Lebanese Forces (LF) supporters shot dead seven of their followers in clashes on Oct. 14.
Geagea has denied the claims and said he is being unfairly targetted for his support of a probe by Judge Tarek Bitar into the August 2020 Beirut port explosion that Hezbollah opposes.
“We won’t let anyone, not Hezbollah nor Iran nor Syria or anyone try to subjugate us,” LF protester Fadi told Reuters.
“We are here today in 2021 sacrificing for Samir Geagea just like he sacrified for us in 1994 so Lebanon could remain and we could remain,” Fadi, who did not give his last name, said.
Geagea, a former warlord, was imprisoned after Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war and released in 2005 following the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon after three decades of occupation.


Western envoys met with Sudan’s PM in his residence

Western envoys met with Sudan’s PM in his residence
Updated 27 October 2021

Western envoys met with Sudan’s PM in his residence

Western envoys met with Sudan’s PM in his residence
  • The mission added that the envoys found Hamdok in good health

CAIRO: Envoys from France, Germany, Norway, the UK, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations met with Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok at his residence, the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission Sudan (UNITAMS) wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

The mission added that the envoys found Hamdok in good health.


US urges Iran to show ‘good faith’ in talks resumption

US urges Iran to show ‘good faith’ in talks resumption
Updated 27 October 2021

US urges Iran to show ‘good faith’ in talks resumption

US urges Iran to show ‘good faith’ in talks resumption
  • Iran's negotiator said after talks with EU mediators in Brussels that Tehran had agreed to resume talks
  • “This window will not remain open forever as Iran continues to take provocative nuclear steps”: State Department

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday urged Iran to show “good faith” and quickly revive a nuclear deal after the clerical state indicated it would return to negotiations in Vienna next month.
Iran's nuclear negotiator said after talks with European Union mediators in Brussels that Tehran had agreed to resume talks in Vienna next month. These discussions had been on hiatus since June.
"We are prepared to return to Vienna, and we believe that it remains possible to quickly reach and implement an understanding on return to mutual full compliance" with the 2015 nuclear deal, a State Department spokesperson said.
The talks should focus on "closing the small number of issues that remained outstanding at the end of the sixth round of talks in June," he said.
"As we have also been clear, this window will not remain open forever as Iran continues to take provocative nuclear steps, so we hope that they come to Vienna to negotiate quickly and in good faith."
President Joe Biden has repeatedly offered to return to the nuclear accord reached in 2015 but his administration has voiced growing frustration at the prolonged delay, which comes as a new hardline government gets settled in Tehran.
Then president Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018 and imposed sweeping sanctions, leading Iran to step up contested nuclear work in protest.