In memory of daughter, Pakistani man runs Dubai desert to raise awareness of 'newborn screenings'

Akber Naqvi runs 200 kilometers across Al-Qudra desert in Dubai on Aug. 28, 2002 in memory of his daughter Zahra, and to raise awareness on essential health care for newborn children. (Photo courtesy of Akber Naqvi via AN)
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Updated 18 September 2020

In memory of daughter, Pakistani man runs Dubai desert to raise awareness of 'newborn screenings'

  • Seven years ago, Akbar Naqvi lost his adopted daughter Zahra Beau Naqvi to an undetected metabolic disorder
  • Now he runs to raise awareness and funds for newborn screenings that test babies in their first days of life for disorders that can hinder normal development

DUBAI: A Pakistani man has run 200 kilometers through the Al-Qudra desert in Dubai last month to raise awareness about “newborn screenings,” the practice of testing babies in their first days of life for disorders that can hinder normal development.
Seven years ago, Akbar Naqvi lost his adopted daughter Zahra Beau Naqvi to an undetected metabolic disorder. Now the owner of a fintech company in Dubai runs to raise awareness, and funds, for newborn screenings so other parents and children don’t have to go through what his family did.
Last month, the 44-year-old ran 42 hours across Al-Qudra in what he described as “the ultimate test of human endurance.” He slept only two hours and only took very short breaks along the way. His run, on August 28-29, coincided with the beginning of Newborn Screening Awareness Month, internationally observed in September.




Akber Naqvi is taking a short rest during his 200-kilometer run across Al-Qudra desert in Dubai on Aug. 28, 2002. (Photo courtesy of Akber Naqvi via AN)

“I ran to raise awareness on the importance of newborn screenings,” Naqvi, who set up the ZB Foundation in Islamabad, told Arab News this week.
Newborn screening is a simple blood test taken from the heel of a child to check for autoimmune disorders.
Naqvi and his wife Danielle Wilson Naqvi realized within their daughter’s first month of life that “something was wrong with Zahra,” Naqvi said.
Doctors were initially unable to diagnose the problem but “we then got a test done and found out that Zahra suffered from a metabolic disorder called glutaric acidemia type 2, which went undiagnosed at birth due to lack of newborn screening,” Naqvi said.
“By the time we found out, it was too late.”
A month after Zahra’s passing, the Dubai-based couple received a call from Pakistan that another baby girl needed parents. They adopted her and soon Danielle also gave birth to twins — a boy and a girl.
But Zahra is continuously present in their memory, they said, inspiring them to help other children survive through the foundation set up in her name.
The ZB Foundation has an agreement with 40 hospitals across Pakistan and has to date conducted over 30,000 free screenings of newborn babies, Naqvi said. It is now coordinating with the government of Pakistan to make newborn screenings compulsory nationwide.
“In Pakistan this test is not mandatory,” Naqvi said, “so if the hospital had the capability, and which is every baby’s right, Zahra’s disorder would have been diagnosed in time.”


Pakistan condemns deadly attack at education center in Kabul

Updated 24 October 2020

Pakistan condemns deadly attack at education center in Kabul

  • Daesh reportedly claim responsibility for attack on educational center in western Kabul
  • Uptick in deadly violence has been observed in Afghanistan despite ongoing intra-Afghan peace talks

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has condemned the suicide attack that killed at least 18 people at an educational center in the Afghan capital on Saturday.

The attack happened late afternoon at the center which offers higher education training in a western district of Kabul. At least 57 people were injured in the attack, the interior ministry said. According to media reports, Daesh claimed responsibility for the assault in a post on Telegram.

"Pakistan condemns in the strongest possible terms the inhuman terrorist attack outside an educational center in Dasht-e-Barchi area of Kabul," Pakistan's Foreign Office said in a statement.

"Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and will continue to support a peaceful and stable Afghanistan."

The suicide attack came hours after a roadside bomb killed nine civilians east of Kabul. Officials blamed the Taliban for the roadside attack.

An uptick in deadly violence has been observed in Afghanistan despite ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban to yield a lasting peace and end decades of conflict in the war-torn country.

The Taliban have been accused of increasing violence to wield leverage in the negotiations.

On Friday, rights group Amnesty International said at least 50 people had been killed in attacks in the preceding week, accusing the Taliban and Kabul of failing to protect civilians.