RAS AL KHAIMAH // Fatima al Baloochi, 39, has had asthma for eight years. She does not smoke, nor does anyone in her household. She lives in the house where she was born - and it is near a shisha cafe in the centre of old RAK. "All the smell from the smoking and the shisha cafe rises around my house," she said. Ms al Baloochi's mother has asthma and diabetes and her youngest daughter, 10, had diabetes symptoms for the first seven years of her life.
Asthma is increasingly common in her neighbourhood, Ms al Baloochi said. "Most of them are young," she said. "It is children and the elderly [who suffer], but mostly children. We are worrying because when any city develops, asthma will develop. The air is worse than before. About seven years ago RAK became very crowded. There are many cars now, the houses are crowded, the people are crowded. "They build new factories everywhere. Maybe the government is doing something to stop [pollution] but we don't know about it."
Ms al Baloochi goes to the hospital about once a week for treatment. "I am always at admissions," she said. "My mother is better than me. When I work, the asthma becomes very bad and I cannot work." Her first attack came when her house was being painted. "Suddenly I couldn't breath and I became very sick. When I was admitted to hospital, they told me I had asthma." Asthma was not the first of Ms al Baloochi's health problems. She married at age 13 and was pregnant by 15. By the time she was 19, she had given birth to four children in four years.
"It was good and it was not good," she said. "It was bad for my health but now it is good because my children are the age I was when I gave birth and they are my friends. When I was pregnant my bones became very bad. Now I tell people to finish secondary school. They should be 18 [when they finish school]." Ms al Baloochi received her high-school diploma last month. She suffered an asthma attack shortly before her examination and was on an antibiotic drip before and after the two-and-half hour exam.
To stay healthy, Ms al Baloochi walks daily along the corniche, cooks traditional food at home and snacks on fruit. When it is hot, she avoids going outside. She refrains from perfume oil and instead smokes her clothes with incense before she wears them. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org