Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 March 2018

Helping those who keep our traditions alive

Despite a trend towards the cities, those who want to live in remote locations deserve help

Emiratis who want to stay living in remote villages, such as this farm in Ras al Khaimah, deserve our support. (Jeff Topping / The National)
Emiratis who want to stay living in remote villages, such as this farm in Ras al Khaimah, deserve our support. (Jeff Topping / The National)

One of the costs of rapid modernisation has been a steady flow of Emiratis away from their traditional homes and towards the coastal metropolises. Most of the time, everyone involved is happy with this process but some people want to continue living in the villages and towns of their ancestors.

These people help ensure our cultural heritage remains strong, which is why they deserve support to ameliorate the challenges of living in remote areas. As we reported yesterday, the Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre was established to ensure that geographic isolation does not compromise the ability of Emiratis to get fast and highly-skilled medical advice at any time of the day or night.

Since the 24-hour service began in 2014, about one third of calls have been from remote areas, mostly in Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah, with a disproportionate number of calls from women with young children who would otherwise be hesitant to go out at night to seek medical help.

Mothers of newborns are often worried about changes in their ­babies’ condition and behaviour. Their fears can be allayed through a discussion with a trained medical adviser. The cultural benefit of helping people stay in their traditonal villages is one of the intangible elements that has to be taken into account when assessing the cost-benefit ratio of the UAE’s changing demographics.

A tragic aspect of life for those who are based in remote areas was also demonstrated this week in the deaths of a Ras Al Khaimah family after their car was caught by flash flooding in Wadi Al Qor. The father was rescued by the emergency services but they were unable to save his wife and their three children. Although we live in an arid environment, this incident was a reminder of the dangers posed by the infrequent storms that occur at this time of year.

Other families in the area also suffered from the heavy rain, with people in Qidfa and Merbeh having been evacuated because of the flood risk. A delicate balancing act is required to provide flood-mitigation works to minimise the risk and allow them to live where they want, but ultimately it will sometimes be cheaper to relocate people to safer locations.

With planning, that can be done so they can continue living safely in their same areas. In that way, our traditions and family networks can remain strong for future generations.