DUBAI // Hundreds of visually impaired children from the Middle East, desperate for sight-saving treatment, have inundated the charity Noor Dubai for help in the two weeks since its launch. More than 600 people have responded to the campaign, which plans to give preventive eye care to more than a million people during the next year. Applications have come from the Middle East, Africa and Asia, as well as the UAE. Most have been from the parents of children with problems such as squints and retina diseases.
Noor Dubai was set up on the orders of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. "The phone has not stopped ringing since the campaign was launched," said Dr Afaq al Mashhari, head of the campaign's administrative committee. "We have more than 600 applications that have not been seen yet. We have had a number from the UAE and the Gulf and Sheikh Mohammed has told us to help as many people as we can."
Some have been sending medical records while others have been put forward by humanitarian organisations, such as the Red Crescent, the Red Cross, the Lions Club and local health authorities. Dr Mashhari, an opthamologist who trained at Columbia University, said the charity had also received calls from severely visually impaired patients who had explored all other options for treatment and been told there was no more help.
"It is very sad," she said. "We have received forms from patients who were treated abroad and have already been told there is nothing more that can be done for them. They are desperate, and we understand this, but unfortunately we have to tell them we cannot help because sometimes the conditions are just not treatable." Some patients have been screened using the new cyber-sight system developed by Orbis International, which is taking part in the Noor Dubai campaign. The system works through a website by providing consultative assistance to local doctors to help them diagnose and treat patients in their communities.
After Ramadan, Noor Dubai's first country programme will begin in Ethiopia, supporting work carried out by Orbis and Lions Club International. Orbis already has rural eye-care programmes operating in the country. @email:firstname.lastname@example.org