The UAE society is cosmopolitan, but the indigenous inhabitants are traditional with puritanical values despite their exposure to other vastly different cultures and habits. Marriages between consanguineous couples are still the norm rather than the exception. As a result, there is a high frequency of genetic disorders, particularly autosomal recessive types. Despite the high frequency of genetic disorders like haemoglobinopathies and others characteristically found in this population, genetic services are inadequate. Screening for certain disorders like thalassaemia are not applied on a wide scale. Abortion is illegal, and therefore, prenatal diagnosis or preconception tests are not done. With the absence of a good national database, deficiency of genetic services and absence of preventative alternatives for carrier couples, genetic counsellors find it difficult to advice pragmatic solutions to issues relating to genetic diseases. This paper reviews common genetic problems in the UAE with special emphasis on available genetic services and support to families with children with inherited disorders. Existing barriers to the improvement of clinical services by prenatal counselling are also discussed.
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