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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Eating outside camps leads to health complications for labourers in Abu Dhabi

Thousands of workers in the capital are risking their health by eating food outside in dirty conditions, as a means of saving money. Doctors say they must be aware of the dangers, or face serious illness.
Labourers who live at Abu Dhabi Workers' Village complain that they are not allowed outside food into their accommodation. Silvia Razgova / The National
Labourers who live at Abu Dhabi Workers' Village complain that they are not allowed outside food into their accommodation. Silvia Razgova / The National

ABU DHABI // Workers say they are becoming sick from eating in filthy conditions outside their labour camps.

The labourers say the food they buy from restaurants is cheaper and more to their tastes than that offered by the camps.

But after restaurants provide it, workers are forced to eat on the streets in unsanitary surrounds as they are not allowed to take it into their accommodation.

One Bangladeshi building worker, 28, said he had become sick from eating in unhygienic conditions.

“Dirt gets into our food and you can see all the leftover food is scattered all around the place,” he said.

Indian mason R C, 45, said he had also become ill. He showed his gums, which were swollen.

“We have to go to the doctors because such food habits affect our health,” he said. “I have pains and can’t eat bread. I only eat rice, which I can swallow easily.

“If the food inside the camp was good, we would eat inside. The food inside the camp is not good, that’s why we eat outside.”

The restaurant food is often prepared in the evening then delivered to the workers next day, the mason said.

He said it cost Dh250 to have three meals a day provided for a month, and called on camp operators to let them bring food in.

Abu Dhabi Workers’ Village says it has levels of charges for meals, including one ranging from Dh260 to Dh400 a month.

It says workers are not allowed to bring food into the camps for health and hygiene reasons.

“If thousands of workers bring outside food into the camp they will scatter it all around the place and spread unhygienic conditions, which will be a threat to their health,” said Moataz Mashal, managing director of Al Barakah Investment, the camp’s operator.

Mr Mashal said if workers were allowed to bring in food they would do their own cooking, which is against the guidelines set by the Higher Corporation for Specialised Economic Zones.

He said the camp served nutritious food that was approved by the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, and certified by law.

Dr Atul Chawla, a specialist in gastroenterology at Abu Dhabi’s Burjeel Hospital, said eating in unhygienic conditions where flies and dust could get into food could cause ailments such as food poisoning and gastric diseases.

Dr Chawla said that workers should understand the health implications of eating this way and suggested that they needed compulsory food education.

“Food hygiene and healthy food habits are very important to stay fit and energetic,” he said.

Dr Chawla advised that because of the long, hot hours the labourers spent working, it was essential that they maintained a healthy diet.

anwar@thenational.ae