(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) The Fred Hollows Foundation (FHF) will work to alleviate blindness through its new regional office in Dubai, the international charity organisation announced on Monday. The charity body works to eliminate avoidable blindness in over 25 countries, and will strive to reach rural and poor communities through its new location in the emirate's International Humanitarian City (IHC).
Currently, 15 million people in Middle East and South Asia are blind, and four out of five of these cases are curable but have no access to ophthalmic health care as they live in poverty and cannot afford the cost of travel or treatment. Another 79 million people suffer from severe vision impairment.
John Brumby AO, chairman of the foundation, said the new regional base in IHC will help accelerate their efforts to treat some of these vision-affected millions in this region.
During the past 13 years, the foundation has provided eye health training to more than 1,000 local doctors, nurses and community health workers as well as sight saving surgery, medicines and vital equipment to countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Palestine.
The main causes of avoidable blindness are cataract, trachoma and diabetic retinopathy, he noted.
"Cataract comes from old age. In many parts of the world, communities think that with old age, blindness is normal when it isn't," said Brumby. While the trachoma eye infection is usually common in people who live in poverty and unhygienic conditions and lack access to fresh water, diabetic retinopathy is the result of unhealthy lifestyles and lack of awareness about the condition.
Brumby said most of the visual impairment cases seen by the foundation needed only a simple 20-minute surgery. Through its partnerships with governments and community organisations all over the world, the foundation aims to increase its outreach to poor and rural communities with no access to proper eyecare.
The foundation has already helped restore almost half a million people's eyesights in South Asia and the Middle East, and two million globally.
In 2018, Brumby said the foundation aims to screen over one million people in South Asia and the Middle East alone, provide more than 70,000 cataract surgeries, and train more than 11,000 doctors, nurses, community health workers and teachers.
"Having a base in the IHC will help us in these efforts," noted Brumby, adding that discussions are underway to collaborate with Dubai-based Noor Dubai Foundation, that aims to eradicate preventable forms of blindness.
Giuseppe Saba, IHC's CEO, said the partnership doesn't just extend the response to emergencies, but also focuses on sustainable development and supporting poor communities. "With its strategic and geographic location, Dubai is a few hours away from many countries in the region that need help. With the 130,000 sq m occupied by IHC, we are certain the required services will be provided to those who need it."
Sherouk Zakaria "Born and raised in UAE, Sherouk Zakaria is a Senior Correspondent at Khaleej Times. Joined since May 2016, she covers Dubai Municipality, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), special events and humanitarian issues. Her choice of journalism as a career stems from her passion of telling people's stories and writing to inspire or make a difference. In her free time, she's an occasional theater and film actress. Sherouk received her BA in Mass Communications from the American University in Sharjah in 2013. Before joining Khaleej Times, she was a senior lifestyle/entertainment editor for a magazine in Dubai."
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