Failure to vaccinate kids considered ‘negligence’ in UAE
Dubai - A child's right starts from antenatal care onwards.
Vaccinating and breastfeeding a child are not an option for parents, but a child's right under UAE laws, a top official has clarified. Skipping vaccination or not breastfeeding the child is considered 'neglect'.
"We want to make parents and the community at large aware of their responsibilities," said Dr Shahraban Abdulla, Chairperson of the Dubai Health Authority's (DHA) Standing Child Protection Committee.
Wadeema's Law, which was passed in 2016, is the backbone of the committee that actively started its work from September 2018 at all medical entities across Dubai. In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, Dr Shahraban said that by law, nurses, doctors, social workers and teachers are mandated to report child abuse cases, even if it is just a suspicion.
"These cases could be physical, emotional, sexual, psychological or even neglect. In our experience, most cases that we come across are of neglect," she said.
Dr Shahraban said an instance where a child has a chronic disease and the parents fail to give him/her adequate treatment and medication can also be considered neglect.
"In this regard, not having a child vaccinated is considered medical negligence because this falls under a human being's civil rights and, subsequently, health rights," said Dr Shahraban, who is also a consultant paediatric cardiologist at the Latifa Hospital.
A child's right starts from antenatal care onwards. Under the Wadeema Law, the age of a child is defined from before birth to 18 years.
She referred to the recent resurgence of measles due to anti-vaccination campaigners. "There is no scientific proof that vaccines are linked to autism or have any other side effects, therefore, we consider vaccination a child's right," she said.
She also said that breastfeeding falls under the same gamut. "A mother cannot say no to breastfeeding her child unless there is a medical reason," explained Dr Shahraban.
In Islam, the requirement is to breastfeed a child up to two years of age and for mothers who are working, there is a way of expressing their milk for their baby, she said. "We are aiming for a baby-friendly country and not breastfeeding a child is not an option," said the doctor.
Law meant to protect kids
The law is, however, a protection for the future generations and does not aim for punishments unless it is specifically found that there has been sexual or physical violence against a child. "That then becomes a police case," said Dr Shahraban.
In many such cases, families need support that could be financial, psychological or even simple counselling. "We are trying to help here. Once such a case is brought to our attention, we discuss and dig deeper through home visits or connecting them with groups, among other actions," she explained.
You are required by law to report child neglect
While cases of medical negligence are spotted by medical professionals and reported to the committee, the Wadeema Law also defines the responsibility of the community. "Every adult is mandated under the law to report even a suspected ill happening towards any child," said Dr Shahraban Abdulla, Chairperson of the Dubai Health Authority's (DHA) Standing Child Protection Committee.
These cases can be reported to the Community Development Authority, the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children and even the Dubai Police. "If you see children not being taken to school or sick and not being attended to by the parents, it is the duty of every community member to report such cases," she said.
Under this law, any person who smokes with a child under 18 years in a car should be reported to the CDA or police. "If you can talk to the person politely and explain to them that the smoke is harmful for their child, you can do that else take the number of the car and inform the CDA or police about the incident," said Dr Shahraban.
The law protects the community and keeps the identity of anyone who is reporting such cases anonymous, she added.
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Protect kids your responsibility
Young minds are vulnerable to a host of risks, and it is the primary responsibility of the parents to shield them from any danger. Providing good education, access to health services, and ensuring a life that allows them to realise their potential and develop into mature beings is important. The UAE has invested significantly in ensuring a children-friendly environment. The Wadeema Law is also an attempt to safeguard the interests of children. Parents and caregivers should be more supportive.