DUBAI // Mary Jane Ricardo, 30, helps to take care of three children, aged 4, 7 and 9, whenever her employer has to go out.
Until a couple of days ago, the Filipina, who works as a domestic helper, did not know how to give first aid or perform CPR if any of the children in her care choked, had a fall, were drowning or went into cardiac arrest.
Ms Ricardo is among hundreds of domestic staff who are being enrolled in courses by their employers so they are better equipped to give first aid to infants and children in case of an emergency.
“I think it is essential to know what to do,” said Ms Ricardo, who took a crash course on Wednesday at The Perfect Help, a Dubai-based recruitment, training and household management company.
“My madam told me: ‘You go for training so you know what to do if there is an accident.’ I don’t know what to do if the children fall into the pool.”
Similarly, Meseret Alamayuh, 29, an Ethiopian nanny, said she did not know what to do if there was a medical emergency involving the children she took care of.
“If something gets stuck in their mouth or if they fall, I give water or medicine. I go by instinct and experience because I don’t have training in first aid. But, it is important.”
“I think it’s essential to know first aid,” said Rania, who preferred to give only her first name.
“If we have children of friends coming over, I am responsible for their safety and so is my help,” said the mother of a 7-month old boy who also took the 45-minute course last week.
She said her domestic help had already undergone a six-hour course on CPR, first aid and other aspects of paediatric emergencies.
“It is the responsibility of parents to make sure that anybody who is working for them is willing and capable of taking care of babies.”
The Perfect Help said it had trained nearly 800 nannies and domestic workers in the past year.
“Besides first aid and CPR, we also discuss what to do in case of drowning, burns, bites, bleeding, electrocution or shock,” said Bienvenido Quiocho, a certified nurse and licensed first aid instructor.
“We do training every day and have classes in English, Tagalog and Sinhalese.”
The company also trains nursery and school staff on how to deal with child-related accidents, health and safety.
A nursery, which has equipped its staff with first-aid techniques, said training should be made mandatory by law in the UAE.
“Childcare isn’t expensive, it is priceless,” said Roxy Tomkinson, manager of the Australian International Nursery in Sharjah, which plans to roll out similar training programmes in the UAE for nursery staff, domestic workers and other childcare providers.
“It should be mandatory for agencies that the staff get trained before they start work. We found that the issue is not that there aren’t enough nannies or baby sitters in the UAE but there aren’t enough trained staff.”
Dr Omar Jaffar, managing director of the nursery, said a ruling requiring domestic help to have training in first aid before they are granted visas could improve safety in the long run.
“Everybody who is dealing with children should be qualified.”