Autism Snapshot: Qatar

Research into autism in the Arab world is a fairly new investigation field, and prevalence studies conducted to date, have yielded varied nationwide estimates of the prevalence. Notably, ASD was not documented as a separate disability category in Qatar’s national statistics until 2012 (Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics 2013).

Qatar has virtually no evidence-based data on health, mental health and healthcare for ASD (Alshaban, 2017) 

Qatar’s first-of-its-kind study to determine the prevalence of autism in the region was first published in 2019 by Qatar Biomedical Research Institute (QBRI), of Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU).

The study also found that one in 56 boys and one in 230 girls have ASD in Qatar and the prevalence is higher than the World Health Organization (WHO) average of 0.6 to 1 percent.

On April 2, 2008, Qatar officially joined the United Nations in announcing April 2nd as the world’s “Autism Awareness Day,” an event which was proposed to the UN by Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser (United Nations Meetings Coverage and Press Releases, 2008) and which was approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007.

The State of Qatar celebrates this occasion, under the slogan “Quality Inclusive Education for All”, to spread awareness and education regarding autism.

In April 2017, Qatar launched the Qatar National Autism Plan aiming to improve the lives of individuals with autism and their families by 2022. The plan was developed in conjunction with the Qatar Autism Families Association (QAFA), which is made up of 200 parents of children with Autism, and various government ministries.

In her speech at the inauguration of the National Autism Plan 2017-2021, Her Excellency Dr Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari said

We, the government, semi-government, civil society and the private sector must make every effort possible to implement the national plan so that people with autism can receive necessary care to improve their lives and integrate them into society, along with establishing an effective mechanism to follow up the optimal implementation of this national plan according to the timetables set, in addition to paying attention to research projects related to autism spectrum disorder.

The plan, which was created with several government organisations as well as representatives of parents of autistic people, features several recommendations, including a greater focus on practical and rehabilitative programs to increase public awareness, improve early diagnosis, and the quality of intervention procedures, and service, as well as continuity of care and meaningful development in education and social participation.

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