Saudi ophthalmologists to turn aid agency KSrelief’s vision into reality in Pakistan

Doctors are examining eye patients at King Salman Relief camp at civil hospital Khairpur, in southern Sindh province of Pakistan on November 28, 2019 (AN Photo supplied by Rizwan Ahmed Baloch)
Short Url
Updated 24 February 2021

Saudi ophthalmologists to turn aid agency KSrelief’s vision into reality in Pakistan

  • Initiative will allow health professionals in Yemen, Bangladesh, Sudan, Nigeria and Pakistan to intervene quickly to save people’s vision
  • Project is result of partnership between the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center and Al-Basar International Foundation

DUBAI: Saudi doctors and volunteers are expected to play a key role in a newly launched initiative to allow health professionals in Yemen, Bangladesh, Sudan, Nigeria and Pakistan to intervene quickly to save people’s vision.

The initiative, the result of a partnership between the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) and Al-Basar International Foundation, envisages 41 medical campaigns, during which an estimated 205,000 examinations will be conducted, 16,400 operations will be carried out, and 41,000 medical glasses will be distributed.

The 262,400 individuals expected to benefit from this initiative are among the estimated 2.2 billion people worldwide affected by blindness or vision impairment, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data. The WHO figure includes an estimated one billion that have a preventable vision impairment or one that has yet to be addressed.

The leading causes of vision impairment and blindness are uncorrected refractive errors and cataracts, especially among the over-50s. The issue is especially prevalent in the developing world, where facilities and specialists are scarce.

“The highest prevalence of blindness that we see is in countries where there are limited resources for healthcare and in lower income countries,” Dr. David Gritz, a vision specialist and staff physician at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Eye Institute, told Arab News.




The Al-Basar International Foundation was first launched in Pakistan in 1989. (Supplied)

Gritz, who was previously head of the Cornea Division at the King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, said prevalence of vision impairment is also linked to environmental factors, age distribution and population.

Referring to the KSrelief-Al-Basar joint initiative, he said: “This campaign is very exciting because anything we can do to make an impact is helpful.

“It is not just helpful for individuals that we are treating but it impacts the family, the community, and the economics of the entire country, because visual impairment and blindness affects people’s quality of life and how productively they can live. It also affects their general health.”

Al-Basar International Foundation launched its first medical campaign in Pakistan in 1989 before setting up a sister organization in the UK in 2005. Today it fights preventable sight loss in 46 countries.

Many more can now be reached thanks to its latest partnership with KSrelief. The Saudi aid agency has implemented 1,475 projects of its own worth nearly $4.9 billion in 59 countries, covering everything from landmine clearance to the rehabilitation of child soldiers.

INNUMBERS

KSrelief - Al-Basar partnership

* 16,400 - Operations set to take place.

* 41,000 - Medical glasses to be distributed.

* 205,000 - Eye examinations planned.

* 262,400 - People who will benefit. 

The main causes of moderate to severe distance-vision impairment or blindness are unaddressed refractive error, cataract, glaucoma, and corneal opacities, as well as diabetic retinopathy, trachoma and near vision impairment caused by unaddressed presbyopia. In many cases, timely intervention can stop people needlessly losing their sight.

“The encouraging thing is that 90 percent of vision loss is preventable or treatable, so this is an area where we can make a huge impact in prevention, like glaucoma, where you need to find the disease and treat it to ensure prevention,” Gritz said.

“And some are treatable, like cataract, which is the number one cause of vision loss and blindness in the world, including in countries like the United States, and lower income countries.”

Global health inequalities are starkly reflected in the comparative rates of blindness and vision loss in wealthy countries and the developing world. According to WHO estimates, the prevalence of distance vision impairment in low- and middle-income regions is four times higher than in high-income regions.

In terms of unaddressed near vision impairment, rates are estimated to be greater than 80 percent in western, eastern and central sub-Saharan Africa, while rates in high-income regions of North America, Australasia, Western Europe and the Asia-Pacific are reported to be lower than 10 percent.




Dr. David Gritz, a vision specialist and staff physician at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Eye Institute, who spoke to Arab News. (Supplied)

“Population growth and ageing are expected to increase the risk that more people acquire vision impairment,” the WHO reports.

“One point is that the prevalence of blindness is decreasing, but that is based on the percentage of the population,” Gritz said.

“Because the population is increasing overall and it is ageing, the number of people with blindness and visual impairment is continuing to increase dramatically. Many organizations are doing great work out there to figure out how to effectively deliver care efficiently, so I am excited to see that the Saudi King is getting involved and is willing to contribute in this way.”

This is not the first time KSrelief and Al-Basar International Foundation have teamed up to address preventable blindness. An earlier agreement was signed in Sept. 2020 to provide assistance in Yemen, the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of Congo (correct?), Bangladesh, Sudan, Djibouti, Rwanda and Burundi.

About 30 medical campaigns were conducted, offering 12,000 operations and 30,000 medical glasses, benefiting 150,000 people.




The leading causes of vision impairment and blindness are uncorrected refractive errors and cataracts, especially among the over-50s. The issue is especially prevalent in the developing world. (AFP/File Photo)

Challenges to these projects include finding enough funding, resources and equipment to implement field programs, and cruicilly finding enough skilled professionals to carry out examinations and operations.

Interventions must be tailored to specific regions, where local diseases, rates of poverty and environmental factors have their own distinct impact on eye health. Local customs, beliefs and educational standards must also be taken into account.

“That is one of the important things whenever you are thinking about a program. It is how to best address the particular needs, and the environmental and cultural sensitivities, so many things need to be taken into account when designing an interventional program,” Gritz said.

“Other things like their openness to medical healthcare, particularly vision care. And for less educated people, people who have had different experiences in their life, blindness is viewed as an inevitability when you are old, so there is a part of it that is also educational. They think cataracts are part of getting old but, if they just seek treatment, they can get cataract treatment and see very well.”




Al-Basar International Foundation fights sight loss in 46 countries. (Supplied)

Dr. Anurag Mathur, an ophthalmology specialist at Medcare Hospital in Sharjah, UAE, says vision loss is among the world’s foremost healthcare problems, with 90 percent of blindness occurring in developing nations, especially in Africa and Asia.

Within the developing world, the prevalence of blindness varies between countries, ranging from 0.9 percent of the population in Pakistan to upwards of 4 percent in Nigeria, often contingent upon living conditions and the socioeconomic situation of the country.

“The number of elderly people and children suffering from blindness is on the rise in developing nations, primarily because of improving life expectancy and more children surviving complicated births,” Mathur told Arab News.

With the right healthcare facilities and treatments made available, these individuals can be spared the encroaching darkness and isolation of preventable blindness.




Within the developing world, the prevalence of blindness varies between countries, ranging from 0.9 percent of the population in Pakistan to upwards of 4 percent in Nigeria. (AFP/File Photo)

“A simple comprehensive eye examination can detect all major eye issues leading to blindness,” Mathur said.

“Appropriate management can enable millions of people across the globe to see better, which can not only change their lives but can also empower societies.

“This campaign is a small but positive step in the right direction to fight avoidable blindness and we need more such initiatives to eradicate avoidable blindness from the face of the earth.”

------------------

Twitter: @CalineMalek


Want to visit Saudi Arabia for Umrah? Here are the procedures you need to know about

Updated 16 April 2021

Want to visit Saudi Arabia for Umrah? Here are the procedures you need to know about

  • Saudi Arabia reported 10 more COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced the procedures for pilgrims coming from outside the Kingdom to follow to perform the rituals.
Pilgrims need to go to a care center in Makkah six hours before performing Umrah to check the inoculation status according to the type of approved vaccines.
They will be handed their bracelet, which they must put on at the center. They will then be directed to the Al-Shubaikha gathering center. There, the pilgrims must present their bracelet to verify their data and their permit.
The ministry noted the need for the pilgrims to abide by the Umrah date and time period allocated to them.
The Kingdom began receiving pilgrims from abroad in mid-March, in accordance with requirements and controls set by the Ministry of Health as part of the precautionary measures set to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah had previously confirmed the launch of the two updated versions of the apps “Eatmarna” and “Tawakkalna,” in cooperation with the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence.
Through these apps, Saudis and expats can reserve Umrah and visit and prayer permits inside the Grand Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, with permits being displayed only on the Tawakkalna app.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah emphasized the need to adhere to the precautionary and preventive measures, and to reserve permits through the approved official platforms.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia reported 10 more COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday. The death toll now stands at 6,791.
The Ministry of Health reported 985 new cases, meaning that 402,142 people have now contracted the disease, of which 9,249 remain active.
It said 463 of the new cases were in Riyadh, 164 in Makkah, 140 in the Eastern Province and 30 in Madinah. In addition, 661 patients recovered from the disease, bringing the total to 386,102 recoveries.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted more than 16 million PCR tests, with 45,843 carried out in the past 24 hours.
Saudi health clinics set up by the ministry as testing hubs or treatment centers have helped hundreds of thousands of people around the Kingdom since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Among those testing hubs are Taakad (make sure) centers and Tetamman (rest assured) clinics.
Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual, while the Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms, such as fever, loss of taste and smell and breathing difficulties.
Appointments to either services can also be made through the ministry’s Sehhaty app.
Saudis and expats in the Kingdom continue to receive their jabs of the coronavirus vaccine, with 6,607,384 people having been inoculated so far.


Saudi Arabia must ‘confront power with power’ in Yemen, says expert

Updated 16 April 2021

Saudi Arabia must ‘confront power with power’ in Yemen, says expert

  • The Arab coalition destroyed five ballistic missiles and four explosive-laden drones launched by the Houthis toward Jazan on Thursday.

JEDDAH: The international community bears responsibility for prolonging the crisis in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia should not simply wait for the Iran-backed Houthis to cause a disaster, according to a Saudi expert in international relations.

Political analyst Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri said on Thursday that although a number of proposals had been put forward to put an end to Yemen’s ongoing conflict, there had been a lack of will from the international community to implement those initiatives.

“If the international community was honest, it would have (acted on) UNSC Resolution 2216, demanding the Houthis relinquish the arms they seized from military and security institutions and cease all violence. The international community is delaying taking action against the Houthis for its own interests,” Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“The international community’s regional interests are its top priority, not Yemen or the Yemenis,” he added.

Al-Shehri believes that, in the face of continued silence from the international community, Saudi Arabia should ‘confront power with power’ when dealing with Houthi attacks.

“We should not wait until the Houthis (cause) a disaster. We count on the Arab coalition and the Yemeni army, especially after the UN’s leniency with regard to putting pressure on the Houthis to accept diplomatic solutions,” Al-Shehri said.

He added that if attacks on the Kingdom continue, then Saudi Arabia should take military action. “The Houthis are using power and this power should be confronted with power. We have tried the international community for seven years, but unfortunately (nothing has been done).”

The Arab coalition destroyed five ballistic missiles and four explosive-laden drones launched by the Houthis toward Jazan, Al-Ekhbariya reported on Thursday.

Those attacks were the latest in a long line of hostile actions against the Kingdom by the Iran-backed Houthi militia.

Jazan University was one of the targets, as well as other civilian sites protected under international humanitarian law, coalition spokesman Turki Al-Malki said in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency, adding that such actions amount to war crimes. He also said that the attacks originated from Yemen’s Saadah governorate and were a “continuation of the Houthis’ systematic and intentional hostile attempts to target civilians.”

The Houthis, who took over the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, in 2014, have been widely condemned for their actions against the Kingdom.


62 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

Updated 16 April 2021

62 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

JEDDAH: Authorities in Jeddah have shut down 62 commercial outlets for breaching coronavirus disease (COVID-19) protocols.
Municipalities in the Kingdom have stepped up their efforts to ensure compliance with COVID-19 safety measures designed to protect public health.
The municipality of Jeddah governorate carried out 4,219 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities and identified 166 violations for issues related to overcrowding and the failure to effectively use the Tawakkalna app.
Officials urged people to report any suspected breaches of COVID-19 regulations to the 940 call-center number.


Saudi students win four awards in European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad

Updated 16 April 2021

Saudi students win four awards in European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia ranked 16th of 55 countries in the European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad (EGMO), which ended on Thursday, rising 10 places from last year and winning four medals.
Each country involved in the competition is represented by a team of four female mathematicians of school age, This year’s EGMO was hosted by Georgia, but held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saudi Arabia was represented by four students who have all been members of programs run by the King Abdul Aziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (Mawhiba) and have received thousands of training hours and attended several training camps.
In the past, Saudi teams have won 20 medals at the EGMO. This year, Rafaa Qanash from Jeddah won a silver medal, while Lara Munqal from Jeddah, Joud Bahwini from Yanbu, and Fatima Al-Ghanam from Al-Ahsa all won bronze medals.
All four students have been members of Mawhiba’s Program for International Olympiads and have received thousands of training hours and attended several training camps.
Mawhiba works in partnership with the Ministry of Education to qualify Saudis to compete in scientific Olympiads. Over 1,300 hours of training are provided annually to prepare students to participate.
The EGMO — launched by the UK in 2012, when 19 countries participated — seeks to encourage female students to compete in mathematics tournaments and to increase female representation in international Olympiads. Currently, only 10 percent of participants in math-based Olympiads are female.


Saudi ambassador to Indonesia launches iftar program

Updated 16 April 2021

Saudi ambassador to Indonesia launches iftar program

Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia Essam bin Abed Al-Thaqafi on Thursday launched a massive iftar program and started distributing King Salman’s gift of dates for the year under the supervision of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance.
The program includes the distribution of 3,000 food baskets and 10,000 iftar meals to hospitals, orphanages and others in Indonesia. Al-Thaqafi oversees the project in cooperation and coordination with the Indonesian Ministry of Religious Affairs, along with other prominent Islamic societies and centers.
The initiative was launched at the religious attache’s office for the Kingdom’s Embassy in Jakarta. Representatives from the Minister of Religious Affairs of Indonesia and the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta also attended the launch ceremony.