Dubai: Around 18,000 people, including hundreds of children, have qualified to compete in a weight loss contest in Dubai that rewards gold for every kilo lost, officials said.

They were among the 28,000 who had initially registered online for Dubai Municipality’s ‘Your Child in Gold’ initiative.

Officials expect one-third of those who registered in person may win, provided that they drop a minimum of two kilos.

Registration for the contest, which follows last year’s ‘Your Weight in Gold’ competition, ended on July 24.

This year parents can register with children to combat early obesity and raise awareness on the disease.

Families will receive two grams of gold for every kilo lost — double the reward for individual participants.

Last year’s winner — a young Syrian who lost 26kg in roughly three weeks — won gold worth about Dh10,000.

More than 9,600 people registered in 2013 and gold worth Dh2.8 million was awarded.

During the launch of the second edition, many families were turned away as their children were not overweight, or even underweight in some cases, a municipality official told Gulf News.

Children had to get medical advice from on-site nutritionists to confirm their fitness to participate.

“We are extremely happy with this tremendous response for the second edition of Dubai Municipality’s weight loss programme. It is more than three times that of last year’s onsite registration,” said Hussain Nasser Lootah, the municipality’s director- general.

“It is noteworthy that a total of 468 children below 14 years have qualified to take part in the contest, one of the largest weight loss competitions ever in the world. It is a great achievement in the history of Dubai towards being one of the healthiest cities in the world.”

He added: “The main aim of our health awareness campaign is to educate the new generation through their families on the necessity of adopting a healthy lifestyle to avoid many diseases and build a healthy society.”

Walid Zarouni, head of public relations and programme coordinator of the municipality, said those who successfully registered will get an SMS confirming their participation “within a few days, once the data from all five registration sites are collected.”