Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 16 February 2019

Doctors alarmed as 'negligent' parents fail to have sick children treated

Child law lecture hears of need for better awareness among parents and professionals

These negative factors are offset by forecast premium growth, thanks to compulsory medical cover and rising motor and property insurance prices in the region. Alex Atack for The National.
These negative factors are offset by forecast premium growth, thanks to compulsory medical cover and rising motor and property insurance prices in the region. Alex Atack for The National.

Doctors have expressed alarm over the failure of some parents to ensure their sick children get the treatment they need.

Medics said they have seen cases where negligence and a lack of awareness is putting young people at risk.

Professionals were speaking at a lecture in Fujairah that was designed to explain and educate, teachers and medical staff and others about the Child Protection Law, which was introduced last year.

The law covers a wide range of issues across society.

It compels every member of society to report the physical, emotional or sexual abuse of a young person, along with ensuring parents send their children to school and provide them medical care.

More broadly, the tragic drowning in September of four young boys at an Abu Dhabi farm and the death in June of two young sisters who suffocated in their father’s car in the afternoon heat has highlighted the need for better supervision of children.

“I've witnessed a number of cases in which parents neglect their children with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, and failed to provide their children with the care and medicine they need," said Dr Mohammed Al Qasim, a paediatric consultant at Fujairah Hospital.

"And this is now an act punishable by law.

“One of the cases that I have been following up on is a diabetic 12-year-old girl who was the youngest daughter to an elderly couple who couldn't provide her with the medical care she needs. They failed to give her the insulin shots on time [resulting in her condition worsening].

"Such cases should be considered child neglect, especially given it might affect the child's life."

An anti-abuse campagin poster from the Dubai Foundation for Women And Children.
An anti-abuse campaign poster from the Dubai Foundation for Women And Children. Doctors and teachers said abuse is traditionally seen as physical violence, but said neglect can be just as damaging.

Dr Al Qasim said education and medical personnel are best placed to spot breaches of the law, though he said himself and many others remain unsure of how to report what they see.

“Such cases can be observed here and for but it's not quite clear where to go and to whom we need to report a child neglect case to.

Causing a child harm by failing to provide proper treatment can result in a jail term.

Nadia Al Kautbi is head of social services at a school in Fujairah and said that although child abuse cases are relatively rare, parenting ability varies considerably.

“We've dealt with parents unaware of some certain health problems, their children are suffering from head lice for example and it goes unnoticed by parents due to the lack of supervision. Others have problems in finishing their homework at home, which is also considered a form of negligence,” she said.

Ms Al Kautbi said that it’s important to reach parents and children their rights and responsibilities.

“We arrange awareness lectures every three months at the school, but it’s not enough and it only reaches a small number of parents, and most of them are mothers,” she said.

“Fathers should also be familiar with the law as they also play a major role in raising the children. There should be other ways to reach them."

She said a degree of judgment is used when dealing with cases.

“We try to deal with negligence cases by speaking with the parents and observing the situation, and if that doesn't work then we report the case,” she said.

Ms Al Kautbi suggested using social media channels, television and mobile messages to make people think about their attitudes to raising children.

“Using different channels to educate people about the law is important. It will help protect our children and allow them to know their rights and prevent them being victims of harmful acts,” she said

Captain Ahmed Al Hashimi, head of the community support unit at Fujairah Police, urged adults who witness abuse or negligence to talk to police.

“It’s everyone’s duty to protect children from any act that could harm their physical and mental health and well-being. Any person can report an incident related to children, including in secrecy if they don’t want to be involved in the case. The whole purpose is to protect the child and this is what we're focused on,” he said.

“We ask people to spread the word and share what they know about the child law with their family, friends and relatives. We are doing our best but it’s not easy to reach all the members of the community, therefore, we ask them to collaborate and help in protecting our children."

Updated: November 26, 2017 11:07 AM