ABU DHABI// An unqualified nursery worker severely scalded an Emirati baby boy while trying to wash him, according to the Ministry of Social Affairs.
The woman, who lacked the proper visa to work at the nursery, did not check the water temperature before attempting to bathe the child, said Moza Al Shoomi, director of the Ministry's child department.
"His body is all burnt," Ms Al Shoomi said. "She is not qualified ... I asked the director, 'how did you not teach this lady how to take care of children?'"
The nursery director said the woman had only worked with her for a few days; her visa was not linked to the business.
"She said she did not know where she was working before," Ms Al Shoomi said.
Ms Al Shoomi did not know the boy's exact age but he is thought to be about a year old.
Staff from the Ministry of Social Affairs visited his family with gifts and flowers. The child is now recovering, Ms Al Shoomi said.
The ministry gave the business a warning and referred the case of the worker, from Ethiopia, to the Ministry of Labour.
The incident happened several weeks ago at a licensed nursery in the capital. Ms Al Shoomi could not disclose the name of the nursery.
Burns can be particularly damaging for children, said Taisser Atrak, chairman of paediatrics at Mafraq Hospital. "Children have thin skin, so the burn will go deeper and cause more devastating injuries," Dr Atrak said. "On top of it, some caregivers ... they don't know what to do."
Caregivers should always check the temperature of water before washing a child, preferably with their elbow, said Michal Grivna, an associate professor at UAE University's department of community medicine.
"It is much more sensitive even than the hand," Dr Grivna said. "The hand is not so sensitive to the heat."
And all caregivers should take a child safety course, said Dr Atrak.
"To be honest, I don't blame this caregiver. Because they are not trained," Dr Atrak added. "They are sometimes put in a position as part of their job. They don't have awareness of child safety because they just don't have the training."
A particular challenge here is cheap water heaters that reach "incredibly high temperatures," said Dr Grivna, who studies the epidemiology of injury prevention.
Dr Atrak said caregivers should purchase "anti-scalding valves" for taps. "They set the temperature at a maximum of 48°C."
The Ministry of Social Affairs will not close the nursery because it was a first warning for the business. The law provides for closure after three warnings, Ms Al Shoomi said.
However, officials will conduct unannounced inspections.
Ms Al Shoomi added that the incident was part of a broader issue; 85 per cent of nursery workers do not have the educational qualifications to work with children, according to a government-sponsored study last year.
"That is the problem now," Ms Al Shoomi said. "We need qualified people."
As part of a new process, nursery workers need a letter of approval from the Ministry of Social Affairs to receive a visa from the Ministry of Labour.
Since the Ministry of Social Affairs began reviewing the backgrounds of potential nursery workers, they have rejected about 10 per cent, Ms Al Shoomi said.
"Now we do not give approval for unqualified workers, even if they have a bachelor's degree," she said, explaining that some apply with a degree in engineering or another field.
The ministry has also created an additional requirement for anyone trying to open nurseries; they must submit the nursery director's CV.