Abu Dhabi: A doctor based in Abu Dhabi has devoted around 10 years of his life to improving child safety in the capital, selflessly giving his time and efforts into launching awareness campaigns for the betterment of the community.
Dr Taissar Atrak, a Lebanese American, and chairman of the department of paediatrics at Al Mafraq Hospital, started his campaign when he arrived in the UAE back in 2008 and saw the high number of child fatalities and injuries being caused by preventable accidents. He was honoured as one of the winners of the Abu Dhabi Awards in 2011, which recognises the work of individuals who have made their community a better place.
About what prompted him to start his philanthropic endeavours, he said in 2008 when he noticed that the number one cause of deaths in children was accidents, he decided to do something to do something for the community in this regard.
“When I went through the official statistics, I noticed that the main cause of child deaths and injuries was road accidents, followed by drowning, and then fires. All of these were accidents those which could have been prevented,” he added.
One of the first campaigns Dr Atrak launched was to encourage the use of child safety seats in cars, a measure that has now become a law in the UAE.
“I started with the child car seat campaign, and as part of this project I raised awareness among parents about the importance of having these seats in their cars to ensure safety of their young children,” he said.
“I convinced the hospital where I had been working to buy 500 child safety seats to distribute those to parents, and this had a positive effect because it inspired another hospital to buy 10,000 child safety seats,” he added.
Dr Atrak said he felt a big sense of satisfaction when he heard about child safety seats made mandatory in the UAE.
Dr Atrak said he felt very happy when he read about the new law which made child safety seats mandatory in the UAE. “I know from all the research that I have done that it will help save a lot of lives. It is actually an emotional moment for me because I campaigned for this for so long and made a small contribution to this cause.”
Another major community campaign launched by Dr Atrak was to train future mothers and housemaids on how to look after young children in their homes. “I started this campaign because I saw that a lot of injuries to children were happening when they were under the care of the housemaids in their homes.” Dr Atrak said he noticed that main cause of the injuries to the children was that many of the housemaids were not properly trained or experienced in looking after the children,” he said.
“So I brought a programme from the United States to train the babysitters and under this programme we managed to train thousands of housemaids. A lot of workshops were held to train the housemaids as well as new mothers. We taught them basic life saving skills that they could perform on children before arrival of the proper medical services,” he added.
Dr Atrak said that a total of 5,000 housemaids and new mothers were trained under the programme, and noted that some of the training sessions were even held at his own house.
“We held the training sessions at nurseries, hotels, and the hospital auditorium. When I first started doing the workshops I held them in my own living room, It started at a very small scale and grew into something big.”
“All of the workshops were held free of cost and many a times I used my own money to help fund the workshops,” he added.
Dr Atrak said he still gives time to the child safety campaigns, but the overall situation in Abu Dhabi has improved a lot and he is proud of it.
Dr Atrak said that his campaigns for child safety also prompted others to raise awareness about it. “One person alone cannot change the world, but the community can, which is now engaged in making our city a safer place for children,” he added.