DUBAI // Labourers suffering a variety of health complaints were given free health checks, medicines and iftar meals yesterday.
A thousand men from 10 labour camps gathered at the Etisalat Academy in Al Qusais to see nine doctors.
They were hand-picked from camps in Al Quoz, Sonapur and the edge of Sharjah by about 150 volunteers from the All Kerala Colleges Alumni Forum (Akcaf), a charitable organisation.
"The selection process took two months," said Shoukath Ali Eroth, a volunteer with the organisation. "We were very picky with who we chose, selecting only those who absolutely needed health care. "
Although Ackaf is primarily a south Indian community group, individuals from labour camps were selected based on need.
"We have people from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and other countries," said Ackaf president Shahul Hameed.
The nine doctors came on a voluntary basis from Aster, a Dubai-based medical organisation, which helped sponsor the event.
Dr Shaji Hydrose, a general practitioner, said that the majority of complaints were related to gastritis, dizziness and diabetes.
"Underprivileged labourers can have some problems, which go undiagnosed because of a lack of access to health care," he said. "I've just had several patients who suffered from borderline diabetes and others with high blood pressure. They were shocked to find that they had these problems."
Unlike Abu Dhabi, the Dubai government has not introduced mandatory health insurance. In the capital it is the responsibility of every employer and sponsor to provide insurance to employees and families. A Dubai Health Authority survey last year revealed that about three quarters of all Indian workers lacked insurance.
PK Moorthi, a 45-year-old mason from Chennai, India, said that he had been suffering from a headache and heart pains for more than a month. He was prescribed medicine, which he was told would be delivered to his labour camp in two days.
"If it works I'll be happy," he said. "I'll know then whether or not this was useful. On the whole though, it's a good idea."
The event included iftar meals by the Country Club Dubai, which is part of an Indian hotel chain.
The sponsorship is the first of many local projects, said Y Rajeev Reddy, the chairman of the Country Club Group.
"The labour community in Dubai needs all the support it can get and through this humble initiative, we aimed at making a difference in the lives of these men who have immensely contributed to the success of this country," he said.