By Noimot Olayiwola/Staff Reporter
The Orbis Flying Hospital is in Qatar seeking to engage the country’s philanthropic community, notably the Qatar Foundation, to support its initiatives of providing eye care to children in low-income areas.
Orbis is a global charity, dedicated to preserving and restoring the sight of the poorest people in the low income communities across the world, notably rural India, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Zambia.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are approximately 1.5mn blind children in the world, including approximately 1mn in Asia and around 300,000 in Africa.
Each year, an estimated half a million more children become blind with up to 60% dying in childhood.
Speaking at a media roundtable held at the Oryx Rotana hotel yesterday, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, who is on a visit to Qatar, said: “With 80% of the world’s blind children losing their sight needlessly, it is imperative that ensure that they get access to treatment as early as possible.”
Sophie is also the patron of Vision 2020: The Right to Sight, and the Global Ambassador of the International Agency for the Protection of Blindness (IAPB).
She said: “If eye specialists can see a child in the early stages of sight loss, it is highly probable that that child will not go blind and will therefore be able to lead a normal life.
“The education of the young, a subject I know that is close to the heart of Qatar Foundation chairperson HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, is of enormous importance in tackling poverty and in providing a brighter future.”
She said children who cannot see find it almost impossible to gain access to education, therefore becoming an untenable burden on their family and turning an already desperate situation into a crisis.
“Orbis is committed to providing sustainable solutions to tackling this problem. By offering high quality treatment directly to patients both on the plane and in its partner hospitals all over the world, supported by their volunteer surgeons and nurses, as well as medical training which can be taken into communities, they are seeking ways to encourage further investment in an eminently worthwhile cause which has tangible, cost effective solutions,” the Countess said.
She shared her experience witnessing Orbis work in Kolkata, India.
“Over the last few days, I have witnessed the incredible work of Orbis in Kolkata, just one of 90 countries Orbis works with. I have seen several operations carried out on children as well as adults. Inside 24 hours, the surgeons, who come from the best eye hospitals in the world, have changed lives forever in a meaningful way, which will allow them to live lives of potential and opportunity, rather than walking in a corridor of shadows for the rest of their lives,” she said.
“As patron and global ambassador, I am committed to further the cause and aims of our mandate to eliminate avoidable blindness by the year 2020 by working alongside our partner organisations including Orbis, and I hope our visit will attract much interest and support from the people of Qatar,” she said.
Orbis Europe, Middle East and Africa chairman Dr Robert Walters told Gulf Times on the sideline of the roundable that the team on board the flying hospital was able to treat eight children during their recent two-day stay in India aside from training some 100 doctors in eye care treatment.
“While in India, we were able to carry out operations on eight children altogether, each of whom was unable to see and on the first day during the operations we were able to train some 35 doctors and later on the following day, the number of doctors we trained reached 100. We were able to demonstrate to the doctors the techniques of the Flying Hospital as well as in our local hospital - the Susrut Hospital,” Dr Walters said.
He said that the team is here for advocacy and to engage the government.
“We believe that the Qatar Foundation is looking for ways of helping the less fortunate nations...and since we have two objectives including medically treating children, and education, teaching techniques in low income countries, we believe that the QF is very keen to find ways of extending to those countries and we will be very happy to do that,” he said.
According to him, the team has no plans of carrying out any operations or conducting training here in Qatar since “services here are good.”
Also present at the media event were IAPB-EMR official Dr Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, Orbis medical director Dr Ahmed Gomaa and Doha International Airport’s representative Abdulaziz al-Maas. Page 6