Saudi eye doctors to help turn aid agency KSrelief’s vision into reality

According to last available data India was home to the world's largest number of blind people--of over 37 million people across the globe who are blind, over 15 million are from India. (AFP/File Photo)
According to last available data India was home to the world's largest number of blind people--of over 37 million people across the globe who are blind, over 15 million are from India. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 24 February 2021

Saudi eye doctors to help turn aid agency KSrelief’s vision into reality

According to last available data India was home to the world's largest number of blind people--of over 37 million people across the globe who are blind, over 15 million are from India. (AFP/File Photo)
  • KSrelief and Al-Basar International Foundation are launching 41 new medical projects in Yemen, Bangladesh, Sudan, Nigeria and Pakistan
  • Blindness and vision impairment affect 2.2 billion people worldwide, but with the right care, sight loss is preventable for 1 billion of them

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.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek


Who’s Who: Nabil Khojah, secretary-general of the Economic Cities and Special Zones Authority

Who’s Who: Nabil Khojah, secretary-general of the Economic Cities and Special Zones Authority
Updated 1 min 4 sec ago

Who’s Who: Nabil Khojah, secretary-general of the Economic Cities and Special Zones Authority

Who’s Who: Nabil Khojah, secretary-general of the Economic Cities and Special Zones Authority

A royal order has recently approved Nabil Khojah as the secretary-general of the Economic Cities and Special Zones Authority.

Khojah received a bachelor’s degree in management information systems from the College of Industrial Management of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in 1996.

Nearly three years ago, he attended a leadership program designed for senior executives, Harvard Business School (HBS).

Khojah, who has served as CEO of Mosanada Logistics Services since 2019, brings extensive experience in the logistics industry to his role.

For four years beginning in 2008, he worked as the managing director at Exel, a joint venture business between DHL and Al-Olayan Group, a multinational enterprise with an actively managed portfolio of global investments.

Between 2012 and 2018, he served as the chief executive officer of Saudia Cargo, one of the Middle East’s leading air cargo carrier and cargo ground handling companies. His responsibilities included reporting to the company’s board of directors and overseeing a business with an extensive global network.

He has also held leadership positions with Unilever KSA and the Royal Saudi Air Force, among others.

From 2001 to 2003, he worked for Unilever, where he occupied a series of more senior positions, including manager of business systems, manager of the supply chain and logistics department, and manager of market demand planning. For three years beginning in 2003, he served as the regional manager for logistics and imported products in Dubai.

Khojah then moved to DHL as the general manager for transport and logistics, later becoming general manager of the company at its headquarters in Saudi Arabia.


More countries condemn Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

More countries condemn Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia
Updated 26 min 24 sec ago

More countries condemn Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

More countries condemn Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia
  • The Houthis in Yemen launched six drones at the south of the Kingdom, all of which were shot down
  • The coalition also intercepted a ballistic missile targeting Riyadh

LONDON: Jordan, the UK, the EU and Qatar joined the widespread global condemnation of attacks by an Iran-backed militia on Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis in Yemen launched six drones at the south of the Kingdom, all of which were shot down by the Arab coalition.
The coalition also intercepted a ballistic missile targeting Riyadh.
“The UK condemns the latest Houthi missile and drone attacks targeted at Saudi Arabia and Marib,” foreign minister Dominic Raab said. “These put innocent lives at risk, and show that those responsible are not serious about peace, let alone protecting the Yemeni people.”


Jordan also condemned the “continued targeting of cities in Saudi Arabia” by the Houthis.
Jordan “condemns these cowardly terrorist acts and the targeting of innocent civilians which constitute a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law,” a foreign ministry statement said.
The statement said that Jordan stands with the Kingdom in the face of anything that “threatens its safety or the safety of the Saudi people.”
Qatar strongly condemned the Houthi ballistic missile attack that targeted Riyadh and said it was “a dangerous act against civilians which contravenes all international norms and laws.”
In a statement, Qatar’s foreign ministry reiterated the state’s firm position on rejecting violence, criminal and subversive acts regardless of the motives behind them.


The EU’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman also condemned the attacks against the Kingdom.
“Such attacks which are endangering civilians, increasing regional instability and delaying the prospect of a solution to the Yemen conflict must stop,” Patrick Simonnet said.


Saudi crown prince receives calls from Qatar emir, Kuwaiti counterpart

Saudi crown prince receives calls from Qatar emir, Kuwaiti counterpart
Updated 43 min 9 sec ago

Saudi crown prince receives calls from Qatar emir, Kuwaiti counterpart

Saudi crown prince receives calls from Qatar emir, Kuwaiti counterpart
  • Mohammed bin Salman reassured them of his health

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received a phone call from Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Sunday.
During the call, Prince Mohammed reassured Sheikh Tamin of his health, and the Qatari emir “wished him continued health and wellness.”
Sheikh Tamim also “affirmed Qatar’s support for all that would enhance the security, stability and sovereignty of the Kingdom,” the statement said.
The two sides discussed the latest regional and international developments, and underlined their keenness to promote joint Arab and Gulf action, Qatar News Agency reported, adding that Doha considers the Kingdom’s stability as an integral part of the stability of Qatar and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Prince Mohammed also received a similar phone call from his Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Meshaal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on Sunday, SPA said.
He thanked Sheikh Tamin and Sheikh Meshaal for their sincere sentiments.


Saudi and US air forces begin joint training exercise

The Royal Saudi Air Force and the US Air Force began the Dragon joint training exercise in western Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
The Royal Saudi Air Force and the US Air Force began the Dragon joint training exercise in western Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 28 February 2021

Saudi and US air forces begin joint training exercise

The Royal Saudi Air Force and the US Air Force began the Dragon joint training exercise in western Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
  • The exercise is a continuation of the joint cooperation between the two air forces to maintain regional security and stability

LONDON: The Royal Saudi Air Force and the US Air Force on Sunday began a joint training exercise in the west of the Kingdom, the Ministry of Defense said.
The “Dragon” exercise focuses on tactical interception training, combat training, counterattack, and suppressing enemy air defenses.
It is considered a continuation of joint cooperation between both air forces to maintain regional security and stability, the ministry said, adding: “The exercise also contributes to achieving compatibility and operational integration.”


Saudi and Malian foreign ministers discuss strengthening ties

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minster Prince Faisal bin Farhan held a meeting with his Malian counterpart Zeini Moulaye, and his accompanying delegation, in Riyadh on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minster Prince Faisal bin Farhan held a meeting with his Malian counterpart Zeini Moulaye, and his accompanying delegation, in Riyadh on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. (SPA)
Updated 28 February 2021

Saudi and Malian foreign ministers discuss strengthening ties

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minster Prince Faisal bin Farhan held a meeting with his Malian counterpart Zeini Moulaye, and his accompanying delegation, in Riyadh on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. (SPA)
  • Both sides exchanged views on regional and international issues
  • Prince Faisal bin Farhan awarded Moulaye with the Order of King Abdul Aziz

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan met Mali’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Zeini Moulaye and his accompanying delegation in Riyadh on Sunday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
They discussed bilateral relations and ways to strengthen them for the benefit of joint interests. 
Both sides also exchanged opinions and views on regional and international issues of common interest.
Prince Faisal presented the Order of King Abdul Aziz with Distinguished First Class to Moulaye, in recognition of his efforts to strengthen relations between the two countries.
The reception was attended by the Saudi assistant minister of state for African affairs, Dr. Sami Abdullah Al-Saleh, and the Kingdom’s ambassador to Mali, Khaled bin Mabrouk Al-Khaled.
Also on Sunday, the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance and Mali’s Ministry of Religious Affairs and Worship signed a memorandum of understanding.
It was signed by the Saudi minister of Islamic affairs, dawah and guidance, Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh, and Moulaye.
Al-Asheikh said the agreement aimed to communicate with Muslims around the globe, and tender much-needed help and support, especially with regards to understanding Islamic teachings, and tolerance based on moderation and balance.
He noted the Kingdom’s keenness to strengthen joint cooperation with all countries to deepen the value of moderation.
Moulaye praised the Kingdom’s efforts to help people without discrimination as this approach raised the banner of Islam, and the mission of peace and security, all over the world.
He said the agreement would strengthen joint action for the benefit of the two countries.