The Week in Review from Beirut December 5  1998 ...Search

Lebanon is to have access to the first AIDS care center in the region

Around 527 AIDS patients in Lebanon had a small but significant cause to celebrate World AIDS Day this year. The National AIDS Control Program and the Lebanese AIDS Society in the country have been working together on a partnership that would enable at lease some AIDS sufferers in Lebanon to be treated in the first comprehensive care center in the region.

The project includes a complex of clinics for testing, treatment, counseling and follow-up. The care center is expected to be inaugurated within a few months in Karantina. The center has already been built and the partners have also signed agreements with drug companies, but they still have to order medications and sign contracts with the staff.

Patients will be asked for no more than a 20% contribution to their treatment. The Ministry of Health will contribute the rest of the sum, which is estimated at $1,200 a month. Project managers also stress the psychological support to be offered by nurses and social workers who will always be there for the patients.

According to recent data gathered by the National AIDS Control Program, there are at least 527 people with HIV or AIDS in Lebanon, around 4% of whom are children under 10 years old. The statistics also show that the ratio of patients in Lebanon is four men to one woman. But doctors believe the whole number is much higher due to the fact that the whole issue is still considered as a taboo in the country where a lot of people are afraid to report that they have the disease.

When it opens, the center will be able to provide care and treatment for a range of 50 to 100 patients. Sufferers will also have the opportunity to talk about the disease, ask questions, and receive accurate information and support.

Sidon hosts first conference on Osteoporosis

The first conference on Osteoporosis was held in Sidon over the weekend grouping a number of local, regional, and international experts at the Hammoud Hospital. Participants highlighted major advances in Osteoporosis stressing it is the most common and probably the most debilitating and painful metabolic disease of bone encountered in clinical practice.

The symposium was opened by Dr. Ghassan Hammoud who praised the efforts of the meeting's scientific committee in selecting presentations covering the full spectrum of Osteoporosis, as well as related socio-economic issues.Dr. Yasser Yaghi later defined the problem listing the different types of  vertebral fracture, WHO criteria for Osteoporosis in women, and basic risk factors for osteoporosis in post-menopause women and elderly men. He also illustrated the scale of the problem and its size globally.

The symposium was divided into four session held over six hours. During the first session, speakers discussed the incidence, prevalence and risk factors of Osteoporotic fractures in the Lebanese population. A study conducted by doctors at the Hotel Dieu Hospital revealed that from a sample of the Lebanese population at the age of 50 and above, an average of 12% suffer from Osteoporosis. [ men (12.9%), women (11.4%) ]

The second and third sessions centered on the hormonal treatment of post-menopausal Osteoporosis. Speakers concluded their last round of talks by listing the latest clinical advances on fracture reduction in post-menopausal Osteoporosis. A discussion panel followed focusing on prevention and treatment strategies based on current evidence and practice guidelines.

The meeting concluded that Osteoporosis represents a major drain on medical resources and therefore, early diagnosis and treatment of the problem are very important for the prevention of fractures and thus saving individuals their eventual high financial and emotional costs.

FISTA opens first Rudolf Steiner school in the country

FISTA, or the First Step Together Association, has opened the first Rudolf Steiner school in the country for children with learning difficulties between the ages of six and 18.

Teaching strategies in the school are based on the belief of Austrian Educationalist, Mr. Rudolf Steiner, that all children are equal and have a right to learn whatever their ability. Steiner's approach also compares an individual to a plant, which flourishes when surrounded by an appropriate climate.

The school in Lebanon would be one of some 700 Steiner schools worldwide. It has already accepted 53 students with learning difficulties. The whole project had cost $33,000 and took three months to get going.

The school is supervised by FISTA, a diagnostic center for exceptional children and adolescents. The center operates through helping exceptional children and adolescents, who have difficulty adapting in their schools and homes, to be able to explore for themselves an easier way of living.

Amnesty International seeks volunteers in Lebanon

In 1985, Amnesty International started membership development work in the region. It has already established active groups in Algeria, Morocco, Kuwaiti, Tunisia, and the Palestinian Authority. Today, Amnesty International is seeking volunteers in Lebanon to form their country's first national Amnesty section.

Abdel Mitaal Gershab, the Development Coordinator of the Middle East and North Africa program, arrived in Lebanon over the weekend to spend a week here meeting individuals who would be prepared to form a local branch of  the human rights watchdog.

During his stay in the country, Mr. Gershab also plans to hold meetings with members of local non-governmental organizations and university students. He has already held talks with the Secretary General of the Lebanese Foreign Ministry, Zafer Al-Hassan, on the prospects of introducing human rights courses in Lebanese schools.

UNESCO chooses Sidon to host conference on Mediterranean Coastal Cities

The United Nations Scientific, Cultural, and Educational Organization (UNESCO) has chosen the southern port city of Sidon to host its second symposium of Mediterranean Coastal Cities. The conference to be held next year follows an inaugural meeting hosted by the city of Essouaira, Morocco, in 1997.

Sidon has been chosen from among nine other cities to host the event, which is widely expected to help low-income earners within the residents and boost the social and cultural life in the city. Partnership activities between Sidon and a number of European coastal cities would also result.

The conference is scheduled for the fall of 1999. But preparatory meetings and visits by UNESCO officials and experts would begin during this month. The event comes at a time when UNESCO has also chosen Beirut as the cultural capital of the Arab World for 1999.

North to get new public bus service and port facility

In the aim of boosting public transport in the North, the Transportation Ministry launched a project to build a new bus terminal in Tripoli. The basic idea is to provide public transport in areas where private transport services do not go, such as rural areas in Akkar, Zogharta, and Koura.

The new Tripoli bus terminal will be located in the Bohsas area, south of the city. Transportation Minister Omar Miskawi had already signed a contract to buy 12 new buses for the station. A number of disused buses in the capital will also be used.

Earlier last month, Miskawi laid the corner stone for Tripoli's Institute for Maritime and Port Services Training. This would be the first port facility of its kind in the country.

The institute, to be established inside the premises of Tripoli's port, is expected to herald prosperity for Lebanon's port services on both the domestic and regional levels. Miskawi said the institute would hopefully graduate a new generation of port employees who will eventually develop the services of all the Lebanese ports, thus serving Lebanon, Syria, and the rest of the Arab Near East.

Due to open in 2000, the institute will offer courses to current and new port employees in administering port stores, operating and maintaining equipment in addition to other administrative tasks. The center will also include an auditorium, a cafeteria, a library, and shops for practical training.

Greenpeace publishes 1997 financial statements

In line with its policy of total transparency, the Greenpeace Mediterranean Office in Beirut published its 1997 audited financial statements. A press release issued by the group said this makes it the first international environmental group being fully transparent in its finances in the developing states of the basin.

According to the audit carried out by the Maltese Certified Public Accountant & Auditor "Charles Sciriha", total income in the Beirut office was $482,000 of which $123,000 (approximately 25%) came from local donors and grants. The remainder came from Greenpeace International whose headquarters are in the Netherlands.

The organization's Lebanon Campaigner, Fouad Hamdan, told a news conference local donations could have been higher but in line with its policy, Greenpeace does not accept donations from politicians, parties, governments, or industries to remain "politically independent", Hamdan added.

Hamdan also announced that, for the coming year, Greenpeace would concentrate on trying to ban the use of asbestos by pipe-making factories, enforce the controlled use of sanitary landfills, and ensure the safe disposal of toxic waste in the country.

Greenpeace Mediterranean was registered in Malta in 1995 as a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to halt environmental abuse in the basin and to promote environmental solutions. It is a regional office responsible for countries in the southern and eastern Mediterranean.

AUB honors graduates on its Alumni's 75th anniversary

The American University of Beirut's Alumni Association celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. The Association's Relations and Welfare Committee plans to commemorate the occasion in a ceremony to honor graduates of the past.

The celebrations include honoring graduates of 1923 to 1948 (50 to 75 years) and 1973 (25 years) at the UNESCO PALACE on December 12, in addition to unveiling Daniel Bliss Commemorative Plaque at the Alumni Club on December 5. An all-graduates reunion Gala Dinner will also be held at the Coral Beach Hotel on the 11 of this month.

Graduates will be honored by commemorative medals and certificates. A documentary film on the history of the Alumni Association and the AUB will also be presented along with a selection of live performances during the celebrations. The association was officially founded in 1923, when its first constitution was formulated and its first council elected.

There are 35,000 AUB graduates, 15,000 of whom live in Lebanon and the rest are scattered around the globe.

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