ABU DHABI // An international award to honour people who treat and raise awareness of the blood disorder thalassaemia was launched yesterday.
The Sheikh Sultan International Thalassaemia Award was a personal directive by Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa, adviser to the President.
Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, chairman of the board of trustees of the award, said the prize would raise awareness of a disease that was rampant in the region and honour those who contributed to its prevention.
"This is the first award of its type to be launched globally, with Abu Dhabi at the centre," he said.
"The award will encourage the launch of more programmes to prevent the disease, create incentives for treatment options, and honour the patients and their families who live with this disease every day."
Thalassaemia affects the production of haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. Without treatment, it causes severe anaemia and death.
Dr Mahmoud Taleb al Ali, director of the Centre for Arab Genomic Studies and secretary general of the award, said there were between 2,000 and 2,500 thalassaemia patients in the UAE.
"Another 8.5 per cent of the population are carriers of this genetic disorder; a very high number that is consistent throughout the region," he said.
The award is being developed in collaboration with the International Thalassaemia Federation, based in Cyprus. It will be presented every two years at a ceremony to be held in Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Zayed said the global award "will spread awareness and hopefully this will add another dimension to our work on thalassaemia. The UAE will benefit greatly from this."