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 Joseph Varghese
Joseph Varghese
A journalist with a penchant for reporting events, Joseph Varghese digs deep to unearth facts. With several years of experience, including at Gulf Times, Joseph handles health, science and technology, IT and education in addition to everyday developments.
Gulf Times
QU studies hydrogel agriculture to support food security in Qatar

Qatar University (QU) has launched a research project aimed at introducing hydrogel agriculture for greenhouse farming in Qatar for the fi rst time. According to an article ‘Hydrogel Agriculture to Support Food Security in Qatar’ written by Prof Alaa AlHawari, department head of Civil and Architectural Engineering, College of Engineering, QU, one of the successful methods in promoting agricultural sustainability is the employment of hydrogels that are capable of absorbing water manifold their weight, retaining nutrients, and preventing soil erosion. Prof AlHawari notes: “Compost soil used in greenhouses has low retention of water.If compost soil is to be used for agriculture in an arid climate such as Qatar, the water retention of such soils should be enhanced to maintain a low food cost.” “Laboratory and fi eld experiments have demonstrated that hydrogel is a smart technique that could provide a water reservoir in soil that can be tapped into by plants in hot climate areas. Hydrogel helps to grow more food while using less water by mixing with the soil to capture the irrigation water near the plant; this will help the plants to grow more steadily over time,” he explained.The QU project suggests a novel hydrogel material, made of up to 99% weight of water and environmentally biodegradable, nontoxic and inexpensive materials. The hydrogel material was pilot tested at actual greenhouses in Agrico farm, a renowned farming facility in Qatar. The implementation of hydrogel agriculture is based on sandwiching a thin hydrogel layer inside the compost bags used in Agrico farm. The presence of this layer assists in reducing water losses by increasing the water retention capacity of the grow bag. The growth of plants, water and nutrients retention, and crop production for hydrogel-containing samples and control samples were closely monitored throughout the plantation process for comparison process.

Some of the student researchers with Dr Noora al-Qahtani.
QU team studies natural treatment of lab wastewater

A research project, being conducted at Central Laboratories Unit at Qatar University in co-operation with the Omar bin Abdul Aziz Secondary School for Boys of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, aims to study the possibility of removing pollution from solutions of heavy and rare elements using humic acid and natural clay. An article in the latest edition of QU Research Magazine by Dr Noora al-Qahtani, acting head of CLU, highlights that one of the most pressing environmental challenges in industrial and university sectors is the treatment and disposal of wastewater resulting from analytical activities, such as those in atomic spectroscopy laboratories. Large quantities of liquid waste that contain heavy and rare elements and other environmental pollutants are generated during various analysis processes depending on the nature of the analysed samples.This study looks into the possibility of the treatment of such wastewater. The use of natural, cheap and sustainable absorbents in the treatment of heavy metals is one of the most important methods that help in the safe disposal of these wastes. One of these absorbents is humic substances or what is known as organic materials that naturally exist in agricultural soil and riverbeds. They are natural polymeric materials that include different types of functional groups.The research plan for this study includes separation, purification and classification of humic acid extracted from agricultural manure and preparing humic acid complexes with metals for many heavy metal ions from wastewater in the Atomic Spectrometry Laboratory in the Central Laboratories Unit, which were found to contain many chemical pollutants of the environment upon analysis. It aims to study humic acid-mineral compounds using accurate laboratory wastewater solution and the compounds of elements with natural clay materials through accurate laboratory wastewater solutions. It will also look make a comparative study between the absorption of humic acid and natural clay for heavy and rare metals. And attempt to reach a preliminary design for a filter that contains humic acid and natural clay materials that would be applicable in the various development phases. The research looks at the possibility of using humic and clay materials to treat heavy and rare metal contamination since these materials have compound properties with heavy metals, which many other studies have referred to. The objectives of this study were to use natural organic polymers such as humic acid and natural clay to study the feasibility of these materials for removing heavy metals from wastewater in chemical laboratories.Through a carefully designed research programme, the team from CLU, along with a large group of students from the Chemistry and Earth Sciences major in the College of Arts and Sciences and Chemical Engineering major in the College of Engineering at QU collected samples of wastewater from various atomic spectroscopy analysis laboratories and measured its physical and chemical properties using the techniques and methods of equipment available. The research team is studying the effect of changing the weights of natural absorbents, the impact of increasing the time for pollutants to be exposed to absorbents, the effect of temperature change, the impact of change in the power of hydrogen and other factors. The elements that are studied to search for the best conditions for their removal include arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, manganese, nickel, lead, zinc, molybdenum, silver, barium and beryllium, which exist in the contents of the atomic spectrometer wastewater.

Indian ambassador Vipul speaking to Gulf Times. PICTURE: Thajudheen.
Indian embassy to commence chancery construction soon

To realise the aspiration of the largest expatriate community in Qatar of having its own embassy building, the Indian mission is all set to start the construction process of its chancery within a few months, disclosed the ambassador.In an exclusive interview with Gulf Times, Indian ambassador, Vipul said the Qatar government has allotted approximately 5,000sq m of land for the chancery project.“In February this year, we floated the expression of interest for participating in the project," the envoy said while explaining that more than 10 companies have taken part in the initial bidding process.“Right now, all these bids by the companies are being evaluated and analysed by the Ministry of External Affairs in India. Once the evaluation is completed, the final list of companies for the construction of the building will be ready. Thereafter, the final tender or bids will be invited from the selected companies,” noted the ambassador.“Once these companies submit the final bids with the design and the cost of the construction, we will choose and approve one and start the construction of the building. We hope that the whole process will be completed in the next few months and the construction will start very soon,” he continued.According to the envoy, the project will get started fairly soon in about a few months and will be completed well on time if everything goes well.“This is one of the major priorities for the community and I hope to see it completed well on time. I don't know what will be the timeline that the selected company will need to complete the project, but it will be our efforts to complete the project fully or substantially during my tenure,” he pointed out.Vipul also said that currently, the Indian population in Qatar is slightly in excess of 800,000 and the new embassy building will facilitate many of the needs of the growing community in the country.“The plot allotted for the chancery is approximately 5,000sqm. We have to follow the local rules and regulations for the built-up area and accordingly the final area of the chancery will be decided,” added, ambassador Vipul.

From left: Dr Zubair Ahmad, Prof Mohammad Irshidat and Dr Kishor Sadasivuni
QU develops innovative solar panel station with autonomous dry-cleaning technology

The Centre for Advanced Materials (CAM) at Qatar University (QU) has successfully developed and implemented an innovative solar panel station with autonomous dry-cleaning technology.This cutting-edge project is poised to be a cornerstone in renewable energy harvesting within the campus premises, notes an article by CAM director Prof Mohammad Refa’at Irshidat in the latest edition of QU Research Magazine.The project tackles a major challenge hindering solar energy efficiency in Qatar - dust accumulation. A project led by Prof Irshidat and research staff members Dr Zubair Ahmad, section head of Module Development and Publication at QU Young Scientists Centre and Dr Kishor Sadasivuni, research assistant professor from CAM successfully installed autonomous dry cleaning systems for solar panels. The one ingenious technology uses a miniaturised wind turbine to run the self-sustainable dry-cleaning system while the second one utilises motorised brushes that automatically detect and remove dust, ensuring optimal performance.The initiative began with a comprehensive study utilising wind turbine-based portable solar panel cleaning systems. Over a period of 30 days, various electrical parameters were measured to assess the performance of these panels. Real-time experiments at Al Duhail area confirmed a 5-8% efficiency improvement for solar panels equipped with the self-cleaning setup compared to those without any cleaning measures. The motor-based prototype consumes extremely low power due to the use of lightweight components and gives it an edge over other machines in the market.The self-sustainable solar cleaning prototype features a wind turbine, gears assembly and a dry brush for efficient auto-cleaning of solar panels. Renewable wind energy is utilised to rotate the wind turbine attached to the top of the solar panel. The rotational motion of the wind turbine is converted into the linear motion of the cleaning brush via a gear and chain assembly. The gears were 3D printed using the fused deposition additive manufacturing method. The 3D printing gives control over the pitch of the groves in gear for precise rotation and reduces the weight of the attachment. The incorporation of 3D printed parts makes the design more susceptible to incorporate modifications and changes relatively based on the specific requirements of the end user.The motor-based automated solar panel cleaning system operates based on input from the integrated dust detection sensor. Upon detecting dust accumulation on the solar panel, the cleaning process is activated and persists until the dust sensor feedback drops below the predefined threshold. Additionally, the cleaning apparatus is outfitted with sensors to restrict the movement of the cleaning brush within the confines of the solar panel frame. The designed cleaning system has extremely low power consumption and the cleaning methodology eliminates any type and mass of dust.The developed prototypes can easily be installed on new solar panels or retrofitted with older ones. It is designed to work well for both flat and tilted solar panels, ensuring that nearly all angles are cleaned. The fully autonomous dry-cleaning system for solar panels is equally attractive and applicable for small, large and unattended installations in remote and dry areas where water is scarce. The developed prototypes are self-sufficient and work automatically. The dry-cleaning technology is non-abrasive, ensuring cleaning efficiency without affecting the solar panel glass surface. The system has been designed primarily to be simple, robust, lightweight, precise and credible.

Indian ambassador Vipul during the interview with Gulf Times. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Indian embassy to outsource consular services soon

To meet the demands of its burgeoning population in Qatar, the Indian embassy is planning to outsource its consular service very soon, Gulf Times has learnt."This is a proposal we are discussing with the Ministry of External Affairs in India so that we can be far more efficient and provide better consular services. We are at an advanced stage of discussions and it will take place sometime soon,” Indian ambassador Vipul told Gulf Times.“Once it is outsourced, the entire services will be done by the agency that will handle it. This includes issuing of new passports, renewal of the passports, visa service, police verification certificates, attestation of documents among others,” explained the envoy.According to the ambassador, the current Indian population in Qatar is slightly in excess of 800,000 and the consular service needs are on the increase.At present all these services are done at the embassy. In addition, two apex bodies under the Indian embassy also carry out some of the consular services.The Indian envoy noted that the passports are generally issued at the embassy within a reasonably good time without much delay. He elaborated: “Currently, we are issuing the passports in about 10 days including the weekend holidays. So, essentially it is done in about seven to eight working days. It is our effort to bring it down further. Several of the other documents are done and issued on the same day.”“Sometimes there is a surge in application for passport renewal due to several reasons such as the holiday season and delays can happen at that time. During last March and April, there was some heavy rush for passport services and hence there was some delay for the passport renewal,” he continued.The ambassador said the embassy has taken every effort to provide the consular services at the earliest and very efficiently.“One of my priorities is to see that the consular services are delivered well on time and the outsourcing of it will make it smoother and faster. Though the current number of days to issue a new passport is fairly reasonable by most standards, we are putting in our efforts to bring the number of days further down,” added ambassador Vipul.

Palestinian children wounded in Israeli fire lie on a bed as they receive treatment at a hospital, following an Israeli military operation in Shejaiya in Gaza City, on Thursday. REUTERS
Gaza health emergency highlighted by researchers

A report published on Qatar-based by a group of healthcare experts and academics, has highlighted the pressing requirement to address the health emergency in Gaza due to the ongoing conflict. They have also called for global intervention to assist the Gazan population in this dire situation.The report highlights the impact of the ongoing conflict in Gaza resulting in unfortunate and tragic events. According to the authors of the report, the escalation of the war, along with the massive shortage of essential medications and limited staff members, has worsened the already exhausted healthcare system and significantly impacted healthcare delivery and accessibility.The report by Faisal Ahmed, Nasr Alhajeeli, Mohamed Badheeb, Saif Ghabisha, Basheer Mahyoub and Afrah Salem, all academic and healthcare experts from various universities in Yemen, provide an in-depth look into the current situation and raises concerns about an urgent health catastrophe affecting the whole population in Gaza.The key health issues that the writers have highlighted are the hindrance for health delivery and accessibility; the issue of infectious disease; problems regarding reproductive health; impact on mental health and water and sanitation issues.“Various independent agencies have reported unprecedented increases in women’s, maternal, and children’s mortality and morbidity with the persistence of the conflict. Furthermore, poor sanitation and water accessibility have resulted in increased diarrhoeal and other infectious illnesses,” note the authors in their report.Additionally, they point out that the psychological and mental implications of war are probably underemphasised and unrecognised, which would persist even after the conflict resolution. The report stresses that the academic community has a moral responsibility to conduct inquiries, impart knowledge, and provide training while also advocating for peace and humanitarian aid.The authors also call upon the internationally recognised organisations, including the United Nations, and highlight that they have a pivotal role in delivering healthcare and essential humanitarian supplies to stabilise environmental and health consequences in Gaza, alleviate detrimental health issues, and prevent further deterioration.They stress that the UN has to play a key role to advocate lifting the blockade to facilitate the entry of medicines, food, water, and fuel into Gaza for immediate relief in humanitarian crises. They have also urged the UN to spearhead the coordination of international efforts to support the health system in Gaza, alongside rigourous monitoring of human rights.“Urgent international humanitarian aid is needed to address these critical health issues, alongside efforts to lift the blockade and promote peace-building initiatives. The academic community and the UN play pivotal roles in advocating for policy changes, coordinating relief efforts, and supporting capacity-building initiatives to mitigate the health crisis in Gaza,” concludes, the is an innovative and collaborative, peer-reviewed, online publishing platform from Hamad bin Khalifa University Press offering a fast and transparent open access scholarly publishing process, centred on the authors bringing their research to a global audience. It hosts a range of open-access, peer-reviewed content.

Indian ambassador Vipul speaking to Gulf Times. PICTURE: Thajudheen.
India, Qatar to expand co-operation to new areas: Ambassador

The thriving and robust India-Qatar relations with an annual trade volume of $16bn, are set to grow higher with collaborations in several new areas, stated Indian ambassador Vipul in an exclusive interview with Gulf Times.“India and Qatar have very strong and robust bilateral relations. There are several new areas of that India and Qatar are aiming to collaborate and some of them have already taken place. In the last one year itself, there have been great developments on several areas,” he explained.The thriving and robust #India-#Qatar relations with an annual trade volume of $16bn, are set to grow higher with collaborations in several new areas, stated Indian ambassador Vipul in an exclusive interview with Gulf Times. @IndEmbDoha— Gulf Times (@GulfTimes_QATAR) July 10, 2024 According to the Indian envoy, the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February this year has been quite successful as he met with the top the leadership of Qatar including His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and His Highness the Father Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani among others.“Prime minister Modi had very fruitful discussions with the leadership of Qatar which included many areas such as politics, trade, energy, investment, consular services and others. Recently His Highness the Amir made a phone call to congratulate Modi on his third term as the prime minister of India and the leaders again discussed various aspects for cementing the relationship,” explained Vipul.The Indian ambassador disclosed that the trade volume between India and Qatar is about $16bn per annum and it is a great trade partnership between both the countries.“India has recently signed an agreement to buy 7.5mn tonnes of LNG from Qatar from 2028 for 20 years which is a continuation of the long term partnership in energy with Qatar. In terms of total LNG import to India, 45% is from Qatar. More recently we have signed an agreement for Haldia Petrochemicals in India to receive 2mn tonnes of Naphtha from QatarEnergy,” continued the ambassador.“In terms of investment, we have seen some big deals from Qatar including Qatar's investment in Indian firms such as Reliance and Adani Green. In addition we have people to people co-operation from both the sides which is very positive and robust. In the last one year itself, there are many positive developments in terms of investment,” he noted.The envoy said that the relationship is very strong in many areas and there are several new areas where discussions for collaborations are going on. He elaborated: “The effort is to deepen the already existing collaboration and look for new partnerships to give better dimensions for the relationship between both the countries. The effort is to expand the relations to new areas as the world is changing with newer technology and energy concepts. Since our relations are more into energy, we are focusing on clean energy aspects for collaboration, more into renewable energy."“Giving importance to Qatar's priorities and India's efforts, we would be focusing on sustainability, newer areas in technology and artificial intelligence. We are currently looking at new areas of sustainability, renewable energy, startups, food security and the traditional aspects of trade and investment in renewable energy. There is already collaboration in renewable energy between Qatar and Adani Green and we are focusing on other areas too,” added the ambassador.

Indian ambassador, Vipul addressing the press conference along with other officials. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Indian embassy to mark International Day of Yoga with mega event

As many as 2024 participants - if not more- will take part in the yoga event at the Asian Town Cricket Stadium to mark the 10th UN International Day of Yoga on June 21, said the organisers of the event at a press briefing on Tuesday.Arranged by the Indian embassy in collaboration with Indian Cultural Centre( ICC) and Indian Sports Centre ( ISC), the event will be held from 6pm to 8.30pm, disclosed the Indian ambassador, Vipul.The press conference was attended by Sachin Dinkar Shankpal, first secretary, Indian embassy; Manikantan A P, president, ICC and Abdulrahman E P, president ISC. Ambassador Vipul said that International Day of Yoga is celebrated across the world and many yoga activities in preparation of the Yoga Day have been going on in Qatar for the past several days.“We would be organising a big event on June 21 at Asian Town Cricket stadium. The event is open to the general public and everyone is invited join the occasion. The main element of the event will be the performance of Common Yoga Protocol by all participants for about 40 minutes,” explained the ambassador.The envoy noted that this year's theme for the International Yoga Day , "Yoga for Self and Society," emphasises the holistic benefits of yoga for individuals and its power to foster harmony between humanity and nature. The event will also feature yoga competitions for both children and adults and a yoga quiz with attractive prizes for winners.The organisers highlighted that all the necessary arrangements have been done to make the event a smooth experience for all the participants. They also noted that anyone can join the event and all nationalities are encouraged to take part in the mega event. They recalled that previous editions of the event in Qatar, since 2015, have been highly successful and have drawn the attention of the international community.The UN proclaimed June 21 as the International Day of Yoga by a resolution which was proposed by India and co-sponsored by a record 177 member states in December 2014. Over the past few years, the day has been celebrated with great fanfare across the world including Doha. In 2022, for the celebration of 8th International Yoga Day, an event was organised in Doha where 114 nationalities were represented and a new Guinness World Record was created for the most nationalities in one Yoga session.Further details to join the event can be collected from ‘Information & Culture Wing, at Email:[email protected]; [email protected]; or phone:44255709; 44255745.

Manal Samara
Trauma carried in body is passed along for generations: Sidra counsellor

Trauma is carried in the body and passed along for generations, a Sidra Medicine counsellor has highlighted. “The impact of conflict and displacement on the family is both complex and layered, affecting both the unit and its individual members,” said, Manal Samara, a psychological counsellor at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Department, Sidra Medicine, Qatar Foundation (QF) .“This instability causes emotional turmoil. Daily decisions being made – big and small – are life and death. Trauma is carried in the body and passed along for generations,” highlighted, Samara in an article published on QF website.Samara explained: “One impact we see immediately is the breakdown of traditional roles – mother, father, child – and people are left to fill in the missing gaps when tragedy strikes. Stay-at-home caregivers are suddenly sole financial providers; young children become protectors of even younger siblings – they are robbed of their childhood and are thrown into survival mode.”The article highlights the example of Zahra Amin, a British-Sudanese national living in Qatar, who narrates her family’s struggle during the ongoing war in Sudan. Initially, when the war broke out, they chose to wait it out in their family home in Khartoum, a decision that weighed heavily on her.“A week later, things were just getting worse,” Amin said. "My mother and brother decided to take a 12-hour bus ride to Egypt. My father chose to stay with his sister and her daughter, who is disabled and has limited mobility. My family was separated; some were safe and some were not. That month was a nightmare.”Eventually, Amin’s father and aunt – British passport holders – were among those evacuated to the UK by the British government. Her aunt could take only her daughter with her as a dependent, leaving her son behind.“It’s important to stress that all those who managed to leave are the ‘lucky ones’,” she stated. “Millions of people remain in Sudan and are suffering immensely from the ongoing conflict – unable to get support or relief.Another example is that of Azza Nassar, an alumna of Hamad Bin Khalifa University, who left Gaza in Palestine in 2021 to pursue her master’s degree, leaving her family behind. She currently lives in Qatar, while her parents were evacuated to Egypt after the war on Gaza began in October 2024.“I know I am lucky because though we are apart, I know my parents are safe,” Nassar said. “But in Palestine, we cannot talk about the resilience of the family unit if there are no families left in the first place. Families are being erased from the civil registry.”Samara points out that evacuees from conflict zones endure hardship, witness destruction, and experience trauma and stress, not only during wars and conflicts but also while integrating into host countries or resettling and building new lives. “We talk about post-traumatic stress disorder but in Palestine and Sudan right now, there is no ‘post-trauma’. Families are still fighting to survive in the present. We know from the data collected from other regions – Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq – that post-conflict, people will likely suffer from high stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues,” added, Samara.

HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani touring the facilities at the Korean Medical Centre.
PM inaugurates Korean Medical Centre

HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani inaugurated Monday the Korean Medical Centre (KMC) at Lusail City.Following the inauguration he toured the facilities and was briefed on the KMC's specialist departments and centres by medical director and head of executive health Dr Lee Sunpyo and other officials.HE the Minister of Municipality Abdullah bin Hamad bin Abdullah al-Attiyah and Korean ambassadorto Qatar Joon-Ho Lee attended the inauguration, as did Estithmar Holding Group chairperson Mohamad Moutaz al-Khayyat, Estithmar vice-chairperson and president Ramez al-Khayyat, Estithmar chief executive Mohamed Badr al-Sada, and members of Estithmar Holding's board of directors.Elegancia Healthcare chief executive Joseph Hazel and KMC general manager Dr Ahmed al-Kalla also attended the inauguration.The KMC brings together four most sought-after Korean healthcare providers – namely Asan Medical Centre, J K Medical Group, Seoul Ahnkang Hospital and Lime Tree Dental Hospital – under one facility.“After the successful collaboration between The View Hospital and Cedars-Sinai, as well as Estithmar Holding’s impressive extension of operations in Algeria and Iraq, we are honoured to have HE Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani officially inaugurate the Korean Medical Centre,” Moutaz al-Khayyat said.“South Korea has been a global leader in healthcare thanks to its effective and specialised healthcare system that continues to achieve remarkable results,” said Ramez al-Khayyat. “Therefore, our strategy when establishing the Korean Medical Centre is to attract the most prominent healthcare providers in Korea to provide the most exceptional healthcare experience in Qatar and the region.”The KMC comprises seven integrated and comprehensive centres: the Executive Health Centre; the Spine & Joint Centre; the Pain Management, Rehabilitation, Korean Medicine Centre; the Fertility Centre; the Beauty and Wellness Centre; the Dental Centre; and the Primary Care Centre.During a media tour of the newly opened facility, general manager Dr al-Kalla highlighted that for the first time in the world, the KMC has brought four completely different Korean entities under one roof.“Asan Medical Centre will offer its major services at the KMC, and we have three affiliated sectors under the Asan Medical Centre,” he said.“The Asan Medical Centre offers the Executive Health Centre that comes with customised and comprehensive packages and offers personalised healthcare not offered anywhere in the world except in Korea, and now at the KMC,” Dr al-Kalla said. “It also offers the Spine & Joint Centre, which focuses on non-invasive techniques in addition to the stem cell therapy injections of the knee.”“Asan Medical Centre is also associated with our Fertility Centre, as it has perfected the way of addressing IVF (in vitro fertilisation) to increase the success rate of the procedure,” he continued.“They cater to the most complex cases with very high success rate.”The J K Medical Group, according to Dr al-Kalla, is ranked first in plastic surgery in Korea, focuses on the stem cell therapy, anti-aging and regenerative medicine and wellness.“Lime Tree Dental Hospital is our affiliated partner in our dental department, with focus on perfecting the orthodontics cosmetic technique which we have been able to replicate in our centre in the KMC,” he said. “This covers paediatrics to adult patients with our in-house state-of-the-art dental laboratory.”The official said that Seoul Ahnkang Hospital focuses on pain management.He said the technique of FIMS procedure for pain management is available nowhere except in Korea and now at the KMC.FIMS stands for Fluoroscopy Guided Interventional Musculoskeletal Adhesiolysis and Nerve Stimulation.“We have been able to bring technologies that were offered only in Korea and now available at the KMC, and for the first time in the region,” he said.

Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser at the opening of the 17th World Congress of Bioethics. PICTURE: Aisha al-Musallam.
HBKU initiates International Islamic Bioethics Association

Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) has initiated the establishment and hosting of the International Islamic Bioethics Association at the university, president Dr Ahmad M Hasnah said Tuesday.“In supporting the development and advancing of the Islamic bioethics’ knowledge generation and contribution, we are proud to announce the initiation of establishing and hosting of the International Islamic Bioethics Association at Hamad Bin Khalifa University,” he explained.Dr Hasnah was addressing the inaugural session of the 17th edition of the World Congress of Bioethics at Qatar National Convention Centre."We, at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, believe that no voice needs to be left out and discussions around bioethics must have all voices around the table, and that different perspectives have equal rights. As such, we have worked hard to achieve a more inclusive event, welcoming different voices and diverse approaches besides the usually dominant perspectives, in addition to providing opportunities for voices usually under represented from Asia, Africa, and South America,” he said.The official said that the main challenge facing humanity has always been an ethical one whether in science, medicine, AI, or global politics.“We live in a very dynamic world; ethical challenges are rising on multiple fronts and dimensions and are impacting humanity. No single point of view, philosophy, or approach should be the sole custodian of ethical discussions and policy formation. A more comprehensive multi views discussions need to be adopted” explained, Dr Hasnah.HBKU president said that the role of religion is a crucial one in the biomedical area.“Discussions shaping policies should not neglect people's beliefs as they are part of their lives and it is important to be captured in any policy creation. It is also, important to recognise that, heavenly religions were revealed to provide guiding principles for humanity irrespective of time and geological place providing an important basis to the ethical discussion away from trial and error or time bounded approach,” he continued.Dr Hasnah pointed out that there is a great wealth in Islamic civilisation when it comes to ethics. “ We need to have our voice and knowledge in that area well represented on the global scene and work with the global community to address the bioethical challenges,” he noted.He highlighted the leadership and vision of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser on the important role of ethics in the current and future life led to the creation of the first Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics in January 2012.“CILE is an integral part of that vision and plays an important role in leading the international platform in discussions and work related to Islamic ethics and we, at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, are committed to continue having CILE play a leading role in the generation of knowledge in the domain of Islamic ethics across different disciplines especially the area of bioethics and impact the local, regional, and global discussions,” he added.

Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and Dr Ahmad M Hasnah, president, HBKU at the 17th World Congress of Bioethics. PICTURE: Aisha al-Musallam
Sheikha Moza attends 17th World Congress of Bioethics

Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation (QF), attended Tuesday the inauguration of the 17th World Congress of Bioethics organised by Hamad Bin Khalifa University in collaboration with World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH).The three-day Congress, held for the first time in the Arab World and the entire Middle East, has brought together over 1,000 participants - including bioethicists, researchers, and stakeholders.Speaking at the opening ceremony, Dr Ahmad M Hasnah, president, HBKU, said: “The role of religion is a crucial one in the biomedical area. Discussions shaping bioethical policies should not neglect people’s beliefs, as they are a part of their lives. It is important that they are captured in the development and creation of any policy.”The Congress is hosted by HBKU’s Research Centre for Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE) in collaboration with WISH the global health initiative of QF. Sponsored by the Ministry of Public Health, Hamad Medical Corporation, and the Primary Health Care Corporation, this edition of the Congress is organised with support from IAB.Following the address by HBKU president, a panel discussion involving experts from various organisations discussed different perspectives on bioethics. Sultana Afdhal, CEO WISH, Dr Voo Teck Chuan, communications officer of the International Association of Bioethics, Dr Mohammed Ghaly, professor / head of CILE, Dr Said Ismail, acting president and chief scientific and operations officer, Qatar Precision Health Institute, Dr Caesar Atuire, president, IAB, Dr Khalid Fakhro, chief research officer, Sidra Medicine and Dr Julian Savulescu, director, Centre for Biomedical Ethics, National University of Singapore took part in the discussion.The event provides platform for dialogue centred on vital issues in bioethics, especially in religious and cultural contexts. The event reinforced its theme of “Religion, Culture and Global Bioethics” with a special panel discussion, which featured members of IAB executive leadership delving into the significance of the theme alongside distinguished figures from across academic and bioethics research.WISH CEO Afdhal, said: “We are delighted to see months of hard work come to fruition as we witness the gathering of the world’s most renowned bioethicists and scholars in Qatar for 17th edition of the World Congress of Bioethics. Balancing international perspectives and evidence-based best practices in health with those rooted in the religious values and cultural traditions of Qatar, the Gulf region, and the broader Arab-Muslim world has been a cornerstone of our approach at WISH.”The Congress helped participants exchange insights on prominent and emerging topics in bioethics, including the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare, how healthcare can be practiced safely in regions impacted by war and armed conflict, and public health ethics in light of Covid-19 and other pandemics. Prominent experts from the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia are participating in the discussions and offer regional perspectives on the wider field and issues such as disability, environmental, genetic, and genomic bioethics.Mohammed Ghaly, head of CILE and chair of the Congress, added: “This special edition of the World Congress of Bioethics gives us the opportunity to approach the study of bioethics from a unique context. Our discussions revolve around the understanding that our field is not only a secular discipline, but also one that acknowledges the importance of respecting diverse socio-cultural and religious-moral traditions.”

Dr Khalid M al-Ali in an exclusive interview with Gulf Times. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Qatar's well-planned strategy makes it a leader in several areas

Qatar has made use of its assets in a well-thought out strategy and the country is currently a leader in education, healthcare and several other areas in the region and beyond, remarked a leading Qatari entrepreneur in an exclusive interview with Gulf Times.“Qatar is a leader in several areas because of the consistency of the successive generations of leadership in forming policies especially in education, health, sports, economic diversification and investment in people in ways that very few countries have done. To use these tools as soft power at the world stage, Qatar has played its cards extremely well,” said, Dr Khalid M al-Ali, a leading Qatari entrepreneur and an expert in education and technology.Dr al-Ali, the only Qatari to have served with NASA, is of the view that economic diversification especially in the small business sector will empower the youth by providing several opportunities and employment openings.He explained: “Small countries do not get so many cards to make use of. Whatever we have dealt with, we are able to play them well. I expect this momentum to continue and I have seen the leadership facing the tough times with amazing skills and strong vision. We can’t sit on the gas wealth forever as energy transitions are taking place. And we are going forward and charting a path in the diversification of the economy which is the key.”As for Qatari youth and the Arab youngsters in general, Dr al-Ali noted that given an opportunity, they excel extremely well. He said that he was a judge for the popular Arabic edutainment programme, Stars of Science where the Arab youth had come out with excellent ideas and some of which have already been turned into realities.“In Stars of Science, we have seen participants coming from very remote parts of Arab countries and perform well. It was heartening to see great minds with great ideas performing on a big stage and raise their actions to greater heights. This is what an opportunity can help fire the imagination of the youth. We need to find a common strategy and focus on the youth as a good chunk of the Arab population is young,” highlighted, Dr al-Ali.The expert stated that the main challenge for the Arab youth is the economic and geopolitical issues as many countries pass through turbulent times. “A lot of turbulence is taking all around the region. There is also the lack of education facilities to empower the youth. From my experience at working in NASA for over 10 years and other organisations, when the Arab youth are given the opportunities they rise up. The issue is the absence of a platform for them to perform,” he continued.Dr al-Ali pointed out that the current generation is well advanced making use of the latest tools to network. “With these capabilities they are also facing major challenges this time. More than 20% of the youth between 15 and 24 are unemployed. School and colleges are struggling to cop up with the changes as technology is moving fast and the graduates come and find that they don’t have the skillset to participate in the job market. It is a big challenge and one of the main concerns of the youth,” he added.

The investment by Qatar in education will be a huge asset for the country in the years and decades to come, says Ronnie Screwvala. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Qatar's forward thinking to pay rich dividends: Indian entrepreneur

Qatar’s forward thinking and investment in education will pay rich dividends for the country in the years to come, leading Indian entrepreneur, investor and film producer Rohinton Soli Screwvala, popularly known as Ronnie Screwvala, told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview.“I am fascinated by the forward thinking of Qatar and other countries in the region. Qatar is articulating it with a strong vision and passion. I think the investment by Qatar in the education sector will be a huge asset for the country in the years and decades to come,” stated Screwvala, who was in town to attend Qatar Economic Forum.Screwvala, who has set up some path breaking and successful ventures in India such as UTV and UpGrad and several other startups, said: “Qatar and the countries in the entire region are building so many new things. They have a great capital with a long term view. One of the long term capitals is education which is transformative. I like the energy and the long term vision that Qatar is showing, going beyond the natural resources.”Screwvala recalled that he was into theatre as a hobby in the early days and that was his first exposure to arts and thereby to the media. He built a media and entertainment company, UTV, which after several setbacks, scaled to a size spanning all aspects of content and platform. Later he also produced a number of Bollywood movies and several of them went on to become huge hits.As for his foray into online education, Screwvala said that it was a different calling for him and one of the best things to happen. “UpGrad was different. I find a huge potential for the online education and lifelong learning. UpGrad provides such a platform for anybody and everybody. If you look at education, learning and skilling, it is a kind of storytelling. As you look at the end of the day, you will find that the professors or teachers at your college and schools are the best communicators that you remember,” he continued.“UpGrad came out of the thinking for enabling people with greater skills. Lifelong learning is an interesting topic for me and people will have to take time to upskill themselves to keep up with the present day developments and not to lose their jobs. It sounded to me an interesting market to disrupt not just in India but around the world,” he pointed out.UpGrad is a programme in the higher education meant for working professionals and Screwvala feels that it has a huge potential. He says that UpGrad and the Swades Foundation, which he founded along with his wife, are his major areas of attention for sometime to come.“I have been in the media business for the last 20 years and instead of thinking what next, I am thinking of depth in the existing programmes. The Swades Foundation, which is committed to empower one million lives in rural India every 5-7 years and UpGrad are the calling for me for the next 10 to 20 years,” added, Screwvala.

Ahmed Abu-Sharkh speaking to Gulf Times. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Qatar's economy poised for strong growth: KPMG official

An expert from a leading international financial audit firm has voiced optimism for strong growth in the Qatar economy for several years to come on account of its huge investment in oil and gas as well as the Qatar National Development Strategy 2024-2030.“We are very optimistic about Qatar economy because of the huge investment in oil and gas sector and development of more gas fields. Additionally, the 3rd Qatar National Development Strategy focuses on three key areas of tourism, logistics and manufacturing. This is the focus of Qatar right now and the leadership of the country has focused on the right areas,” Ahmed Abu-Sharkh, country leader partner, KPMG Qatar told Gulf Times at a recent event.Abu-Sharkh noted that tourism, logistics and manufacturing are the enablers that will fuel further growth for the country. “ In addition, there is massive investment in technology, digital areas, education and human capital development. Qatar’s financial sector is very matured and focused. All these will make the country perform very well in the coming years,” said the official.According to Abu-Sharkh, the huge investment in hydrocarbon sector will benefit the country primarily in several areas. He said: “Investment in tourism will bring more people into the country. Similarly investment in the manufacturing and logistics sectors will encourage people to invest in several areas such as retail, technology and many other areas. This will also help the government to allocate more money into these sectors, leading to more diversification of the economy.”The KPMG official said tourism has been one of the major focuses of the government particularly in the last few years. “The plans to introduce Schengen type of common visa for GCC countries will be a major boost for tourism. We can create synergies with the UAE and other countries to attract more tourists to Qatar. The museums, beaches, the beauty of the city and other experiences can be great attractions for tourism in Qatar,” he remarked.Abu-Sharkh highlighted that banks in Qatar are very strong and are doing well. “Qatar Central Bank is enhancing the banking system and is providing enablers that can help the banks perform better. Further to that, the 3rd Qatar National Development Strategy is a fantastic one with major enablers such as financial service sector, digital advancements, technology and education which can fuel great financial growth in the country in the near future,” he pointed out.“Qatar has been making huge investment in several areas especially in oil and gas. More investment in these areas will lead to more collaborations and will help form major partners from around the world. The core success of the country lies in human development and it is taking a great leap these days,” added Abu-Sharkh.

MES Indian School officials announcing the golden jubilee programme Monday. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
MES Indian School marks golden jubilee with numerous activities

MES Indian School, one of the first expatriate schools in Qatar and the first Indian school in the country is marking its golden jubilee this year. Started in 1974, the institution is celebrating the occasion with several programmes and activities throughout the year.During a press conference Monday, MES officials recounted the journey for the past 50 years and the milestones the school has achieved in the last five decades. Recalling the efforts to provide quality education for the community, MES School president, BM Sidhique said that it was a great struggle in the early years due to several constraints.“Fifty years ago, a vision was born—a vision of innovation, excellence, and ingenuity from our founders, whose unwavering commitment laid the foundation of our organisation. We owe our deepest gratitude to every member of our team - past and present.”According to the official, MES Indian School has carved a niche for itself in the academic, cultural, literary, sports, and games domain among the CBSE affiliated schools not only in the Gulf but also at the national level.“Currently the school with its sprawling campus and spacious classrooms has attained unparalleled status in imparting high-quality education ensuring a safe, child-centric, disciplined, techno-aided, and congenial learning environment thus ensuring holistic development of students through continuous progress,” he continued.As for the accolades and achievements of the schools, Sidhique noted that MES became an ISO-certified school in 2006, received the QNSA certification in 2016 and recently the school won Educational Excellence Award 2024 from Asianet News under the banner ‘Qatar Business Excellence Awards’.Principal, Dr Hameeda Kader said that more than 100 activities for various groups of stakeholders of the school are planned and being conducted all through the year.“Golden Jubilee year is a year of festivities and celebrations marking several events to commemorate the 50th year. MES FM Radio, 'The Golden Waves': was launched in April 2024. Epic Canvas- a Mega Painting competition, the Musical Reality Show, Elocution competitions in Arabic and Urdu, Ted X, and Golden Jubilee Marathon International are some of the activities for occasion,” said Kader.MES also started another school MES International School several years ago to cater to the educational needs of the burgeoning Indian population in Qatar. During the event the new logo of the school was launched. The press conference was also attended by senior vice president Dr Najeeb, general secretary Hazmal Ismail, treasurer Usman AT as well as several other management members and staff of the school.

Sheikh Dr Khalid bin Jabor al-Thani addressing the gathering.
QCS digital platform to support cancer treatment

Qatar Cancer Society (QCS) on Sunday launched a digital platform named ‘Wayyakum,’ to support treatment of cancer patients in the country.The first such digital initiative in the Gulf region, the platform is dedicated to support the cost of treatment for the needy cancer patients. It provides a simplified and effective means for patients and their families to access the necessary financial support for treatment.The event was attended by several prominent figures in medicine, healthcare, charity, and humanitarian work from various institutions in Qatar, including the Regulatory Authority for Charitable Activities. This platform has been linked to 'Sanadi' - a specialised platform for organising domestic charitable aid within Qatar in collaboration with 23 partners from government and charitable institutions.Speaking to the media, QCS chairman HE Sheikh Dr Khaled bin Jaber al-Thani, said the intention was to make the application for financial support quite simple. Earlier people had to come to the QCS office and submit a manual application and the process took a long time, he recalled.HE Sheikh Dr Khaled explained: “Wayyakum is the simple way to submit an application where the needy people can upload all the information and documents required. Our target is to evaluate an application and approve it in two hours if it is in order. At the same time, everything will be dispatched electronically."So once it is approved, an auto-generated approval letter for treatment goes to the respective centre, for example, to the National Centre for Cancer Care and Research or to Sidra Medicine.”“All the systems are interlinked. Once the details are entered, the system will show that the patient has already been granted aid from QCS. So once they put the ID of the patient, it will show on the system if he or she has received any financial support from other charity organisations. So there will not be room for any duplication,” he noted.“The fund is provided depending on the cost of the treatment. We get an estimate from the respective institutions and approve it. Usually we have it capped at QR 50,000 and if required to pay more, we provide the additional amount too. Some people may need treatment for several years. So we decide accordingly,” explained, Sheikh Khaled.Last year QCS supported over 1,200 cancer patients and some of them are repeating cases this year too, he said. Since 2013, QCS has provided support and coverage of cost of cancer treatment. The number of beneficiaries until 2023 has reached 9,362 at a total cost of over QR101mn.'Wayyakum’ platform, can be accessed by visiting the QCS website or by downloading the 'Wayyakum' application from the app stores.Upon entering the platform, users are asked to create a new account and fill in the necessary information to complete the registration process, including personal data and financial expenses for the patient. They must also upload the required documents for the patient and attach a 'Sanadi' document.After submitting the request, users can track its status and verify it through the system, with the possibility of updating it if necessary.In addition, users will receive text messages about acceptance of the request or for additional updates.

The participants at the discussion.
Qatar’s precision medicine research environment can attract pharma-biotech partners

Experts in pharmaceutical and biotech industries focused on the benefits and advantages of strategic partnerships for Qatar’s precision health goals during a recent discussion as Qatar Precision Health Institute (QPHI), a national centre for research and implementation, officially launched recently under Qatar Foundation.They considered the unique aspects of the regional research environment and investment landscape, focusing on Qatar as a hub for attracting the international life sciences industries to invest in precision health research.With a focus on strategic partnerships and meaningful collaborations, QPHI aims to address the evolving healthcare needs of Qatar while contributing to global efforts to advance precision healthcare. It is set to shape the future of healthcare in Qatar and the region through the implementation of precision diagnosis and treatments, paving the way for a healthier and more resilient future.Speaking on the topic "Building Partnerships with Pharma and Biotech in the Middle East," the experts explored the opportunities and challenges of fostering impactful research collaborations in precision health. Industry experts, representing companies at the forefront of genomics and precision medicine, included Dr Fahmi Satour, medical head, Gulf Countries, Roche; Dr Rana Lonnen, managing director, Novartis Venture Capital; Dr Ann Aerts, head of the Novartis Foundation; and Dr Mohamed Adel Ghanem, head of Healthcare Investments at Qatar Investment Authority. The session was moderated by Dr Eleni Fthenou, scientist at QPHI’s Qatar Biobank.Highlighting the importance of precision health and its ongoing development in Qatar, Dr Ghanem said: “Precision health is the right way to do healthcare and Qatar has been leading the way here with institutions like the Qatar Biobank and the Qatar Genome Programme. We are focusing on the right infrastructure and with the support and efforts of global pharma players, we can help not only the region, but the world.”Dr Aerts underscored the importance of access to medical data and advanced technological resources and capitalising on them to shift from traditional methods of healthcare. We need to do things differently, shift our mindset, and focus on being predictive, preventive, and proactive with our approach to healthcare. We must capitalize on this huge amount of data, massive computational power, and advanced computational technologies to help us shift from a reactive to a proactive approach to build preventive health systems.”The session also prioritised actionable insights for building and sustaining partnerships, including the collaborative role of venture capital investments in biomedical innovation and novel therapies.According to Dr Lonnen precision medicine is a top priority for every corporate investor in pharma. She also stressed the importance of collaboration and insisted that trust is an important part of any partnership.The panelists also touched on the mutual benefits and “win-wins” of partnerships in boosting the capabilities of both the biotech industry and the region’s healthcare institutes beyond clinical research and data access, especially to translate research discoveries into clinical settings.Dr Fahmi added: “The pharma industry can bring global reach, cutting edge technology, new ways of working, and agility. Whereas institutions like hospitals can help with their infrastructure and local reach and exposure. This is a win-win for all of us and also a win-win for patients."