ABU DHABI // Dr Taisser Atrak has made it his mission to ensure that children's carers know how to save lives and administer first aid.
With most households in the country employing a housemaid, nannies must know what to do if a child is injured or an accident occurs, said Dr Atrak, the chairman of paediatrics at Mafraq Hospital.
"Parents describe these housemaids as nannies, but they are not qualified to be nannies in the complete sense of the word, and would not know what to do if anything happens to the child in their care," Dr Atrak said.
He offers a free first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) course through Mafraq Hospital to train parents, housemaids, nannies and nursery school staff.
The course teaches treatment and prevention of injuries and will cover car and home safety as well. Dr Atrak said the course is a response to an increased rate of accident-related deaths among children.
Accidental drownings, falls and fires within the home account for 23 per cent of all child deaths. According to the Ministry of Health, five in sixof those deaths are preventable.
"I have seen a child come in with a swallowed balloon and because no one knew what to do in time, that child died," Dr Atrak said.
"Another child was left for a second in just a few inches of bathwater and drowned.
"Children choke on food, stones, small toys, popcorn; I see so many injuries that can be prevented from becoming complicated or potentially fatal if just some first aid was administered."
Dr Mohammed Yaman, the chief medical officer at Mafraq Hospital, said burns are the leading cause of injury among children aged one to four.
"Simple fire safety training would have been enough to prevent nearly all those cases," he said.
The courses at Mafraq Hospital are free and take place over eight hours. Following an examination, participants will be certified in the Paediatric First Aid for Caregivers and Teacher Training course.
The first batch of 150 students taking Mafraq's new course in May will include mostly teachers and staff at nurseries in Abu Dhabi.
"Soon, we will branch out and provide programmes for all teachers, for nannies and housemaids, and even for parents.
New mothers, especially, are sometimes afraid to handle their newborns," he said.
Until the course is expanded, parents looking to learn first aid, or teach it to their nannies and housekeepers, can sign up for a Dh400, three-hour course run on Fridays and Saturdays by Annie Browne, a former accident and emergency nurse and resuscitation trainer.
Vanessa Scott, a business development manager who became a mother a year ago, was one of Ms Browne's first students in the first aid course.
"I wanted to brush up on my first aid - especially paediatric CPR - and also wanted our child carer, Maimoon, to get knowledge in CPR, choking, fever, ringing an ambulance and so on," Ms Scott said.
"I just think that people here who rely on in-home childcare and are concerned about ambulance response times feel empowered and confident knowing that they and their helpers know how to respond in a childcare emergency."
Ms Browne has a team of certified trainers who can conduct courses in Tagalog, Tamil, Sinhalese and Hindi.
"The most important thing to any parent is their child. I give them the skills to keep them safe and know what to do in an emergency. It really is a matter of life or death," Ms Browne said.