Yemen toy market poses danger

Published on 13 September 2012 in Report
Samar Qaed (author)

Samar Qaed

(Photo by Samar Qaed)

(Photo by Samar Qaed)

Low-quality children toys have spread through Yemeni markets without government censorship, and few people are able to differentiate what is safe and what is harmful.

Abdullah Al-Sharfi, manager of the Identification Certificate Issuance Unit and Brand in the Yemeni Standardization and Quality Control Organization, said the organization has been working with countries associated with the Gulf Standardization Organization since late last year to apply a set of regulations regarding child-related toys.

He said the organization gradually applied monitoring procedures because of the implementation difficulty.

“The Yemeni importer buys from the Chinese market, contrary to other importers in the region,” Al-Sharfi said. “The Yemeni importer doesn’t directly deal with the manufacturer. The problem lies in lacking the test reports, health or chemical certificates.”  

Yaseen Al-Tamimi, a researcher in environmental protection and consumption affairs, said the challenge concerning this business in Yemen is that cheap toys are sought-after by many social factions; therefore, merchants know people’s needs and that the majority lack consumer awareness.

“The merchant wants his goods to be sold rapidly because he thinks about profits, but the good-quality toys are difficult to be purchased quickly because the price of this kind is high.”

Among the hardships facing the Yemeni Standardization and Quality Control Organization is that examining toys entails lengthy, extensive efforts, which is difficult for the organization to do, Al-Sharfi said.

He said new examination procedures have been followed to discover toys lacking necessary standards; if the low-quality toys are properly controlled, they will be destroyed, confiscated or the shipment is removed from the country under the supervision of the organization.

“If the toys are high-quality, they will be sent to the labs for further tests, and a report ought to be made about that,” he said. “What we care about is to control the toys from breaching the morals of Islam with regard to the pictures and shapes in addition to caring about the pointed things that could cause harm.”

For his part, Mustafa Nassar, chairman of Studies and Economic Media Center, said the YSQO cannot bear the stay of goods in the port; in return, the merchant cannot bear the additional customs fees. Thus, the importer does what it can to prevent goods from arriving in the port.

The importing of these toys is considered a loss of economic interests because their modest prices excuse them from paying customs fees that the government takes no advantage of, according to Nassar, who also said randomness has to do with the absence of law and the misuse of authority utilized during the crossings.

“The qualities official in Hodeida lost his post because he attempted to apply the law,” Nassar said. “Instrumental figures lobbied the local council, and then he was removed.”

Nassar said the organization superficially examines goods because there are so many. Low-quality toys, he said, are placed at the bottom to make it difficult for the organization examiner to find. He stressed the importance of supervising these toys in the markets.

Nassar said he holds the Yemeni Standardization and Quality Control Organization responsible for monitoring the markets because the organization has been authorized to issue identification certificates. Therefore, its role is not limited to the crossings; there must be a check on the markets.  

However, Al-Sharfi said when goods enter markets, there are supervising sides such as the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Environment Health Office.

“We are only responsible for the goods’ entrance to the crossings.”

The Yemen Times contacted the ministry, but it responded by saying children’s toys are not their business to follow in the markets because they focus on food and consumption supplies.

Al-Sharfi said that since the outset of this year, the organization has strictly implemented identification procedures in accordance with Gulf standards. The organization has been requesting the technical file of each cargo load, which includes an internationally certified test report.

However, implementation hindrances include the shortage of examination labs in regions other than Dubai and Saudi Arabia, he said, indicating that there is contact between the organization and these labs.

“There is a mutual cooperation with this side. We send them monthly fees; they dispatch us test reports, which require three weeks to prepare.”

Health hazards

Dr. Najeeb Al-Qubati, manager of Child Health Administration at the Ministry of Public Health and Population, said those children hurrying to buy various toys don’t know the consequences; even if these toys are for entertainment and joy, they are a double-edged sword.

He warned that poorly made toys could trigger health dangers for children—from physical scars to suffocation or invisible hazards that appear with the passage of time.

Al-Qubati said international studies conducted by health institutes following the contents of toys in the markets caution against the detrimental chemical substances sometimes used when making these toys. These chemical compounds dissolve and disperse in the respiratory passage of children when they touch the toys. The chemicals also affect in the eyes, mouth and skin, according to Qubati.

He said the most dangerous materials are perfume matters, which contain carbon, plastic and other heavy materials. Zink and lead linked to cancer, Al-Qubati said; others deem these chemical elements allergy reactors.

As children are attracted to bright colors and attractive toy displays on public roads and pavements, they insist on having the toys, explained Faze Al-Anisi, a psychology consultant.

The inexpensive toys are a good factor to psychologically compensate poor children, he said, but these toys are breakable and cannot live long.

“It continues with the child one day or two and then becomes fragile.”

Al-Anisi said there are ways to help children use toys in an orderly manner. First, the family should know whether or not the toy is suitable for the child by reading the toy’s label. The toy should be chosen based the child’s age so as to prevent hazards.

Al-Anisi called on the merchants to respect children and to have a conscience toward this issue; they should not import cheap, hazardous toys, he said. He added that government offices responsible for this business ought to strictly sponsor the markets and the crossings, and consumers should be aware of the type of toy bought for his child.