x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

RCA sends aid to abandoned workers

Stranded labourers given medical check-ups and a renewed sense of hope as they prepare a curry feast from Red Crescent supplies.

Ahmed Khamis al Oraimi, a social researcher for the Red Crescent, sorts through documentation at the Otaiba and Garg Contracting labour camp in Musaffah.
Ahmed Khamis al Oraimi, a social researcher for the Red Crescent, sorts through documentation at the Otaiba and Garg Contracting labour camp in Musaffah.

ABU DHABI // The Red Crescent Authority has stepped in to help a group of workers who were abandoned by their employer almost six months ago. Yesterday, the authority arrived with a doctor and other volunteers bringing essential supplies to the camp in Musaffah, including cooking oil, fresh fruit and vegetables, tea leaves, milk powder, spices and chicken for more than 100 workers stranded in the camp.

A Red Crescent doctor also visited the workers and took blood samples from those with diabetes and high blood pressure. They also conducted tests for those with poor eyesight. The National reported on Friday that the workers were in legal limbo and had been stranded in the country since January without pay. Their employer, Otaiba and Garg Contracting, is no longer in operation. Before the intervention by the RCA, the workers relied on sporadic food handouts from local social and cultural Indian organisations. Officials from the Indian Embassy intervened recently when the task of feeding the labourers every day became too much for the organisations.

The camp, which is on the outskirts of Mohammed bin Zayed City, has since seen an outpouring of help from government authorities and local well-wishers. Most of the workers are from India, with some from Bangladesh and Nepal. On Sunday, the RCA sent Ahmed Khamis al Oraimi, a social researcher, to interview the men and make a list of supplies needed in the camp, including such things as cleaning materials for the toilets, cockroach spray and detergent for washing clothes. Mr al Oraimi returned yesterday evening to check the supplies and talk to the workers, who said they now felt a renewed sense of hope, largely due to the efforts of the volunteers and the quick intervention of the charitable organisation.

Mr Oraimi said the food should last at least two weeks. More than 35 of the men are said to be diabetic and it was determined that at least 12 should be given spectacles. Nandu Yadav, from India, who has a hernia and requires surgery was one of the first patients seen yesterday. He was prescribed painkillers. "I told the doctor that there is this swelling, and he examined it and looked at my previous medical records and gave me some medication for the time being," said Mr Yadav. "I hope to feel better soon."

Another resident of the camp, Makhan Singh, 47, from Punjab in India, had a thorough check-up. Doctors recorded his blood pressure, tested his insulin levels for signs of diabetes and recommended he receive a pair of glasses. "I felt very happy today because of the care I received. It gave me hope that our problems will be solved soon." Last night, using provisions from the Red Crescent, he made himself a mixed vegetable curry which included bitter gourd and courgette. This morning he planned to breakfast on watermelon and mango.

Shahdev Yadav showed off a large, fresh watermelon that he will share with four fellow workers. And others, such as Mohammed Alim from Bangladesh, were already preparing chicken curry in the camp's kitchen last night for a much awaited feast among those who eat meat. Babban Ram, whose children were removed from high school in India six months ago because he could not send home money to pay their fees, said: "We just want what is due to us because I just want to go back home to see my children."

Meanwhile, the Bangladeshi workers have also been visited by embassy officials from their country, who have assured them of their support. "With the help of his phone, I called and spoke to my wife today," said Mr Alim. "I told her not to worry any more because now we were in the capable hands of the Red Crescent. We should not have trouble any more." sbhattacharya@thenational.ae