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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Farah project is saving young lives in Dubai

Funding for operations, cancer care and important research at the core of Al Jalila Foundation

Euale Mengsitu Besir hasbeen offered potentially lifesaving treatment from the Al Jalila Foundation Farah fund. Courtesy Al Jalila Foundation
Euale Mengsitu Besir hasbeen offered potentially lifesaving treatment from the Al Jalila Foundation Farah fund. Courtesy Al Jalila Foundation

Six-year-old Bushra Saeed is one of 131 children to have had life-changing health interventions under the Al Jalila Farah paediatric programme.

The Yemeni youngster was born with a congenital heart defect, but doctors stepped in to offer heart surgery under the Dh28 million fund that pays for those who can’t afford expensive but lifesaving operations.

“It was heart-breaking to hear my little daughter in pain and there was nothing I could do, I was helpless,” said her father, Salah Mohsen Saeed, 30, who moved to Fujairah from Yemen.

“She was feeling very sick and not playing or sleeping. Doctors said she was suffering from a heart defect and needed urgent surgery.”

Mr Saeed arrived in the UAE with his young family from Yemen two years ago.

Although happy to be in the country, that contentment didn’t last long as just six months later Bushra fell ill and was taken to hospital by her frantic parents.

After a week of tests, Mr Saeed was told his daughter urgently needed an expensive heart operation.

“I had no doubt for a moment that she might have a problem, but we were shocked when the doctor said she had a hole in her heart,” he said.

“They advised me to do the procedure quickly. Because of her age, it was the best time for an open heart operation.

“My wife's friends told us about Al Jalila Foundation, as they had benefited from support in treating one of their children years ago.

“The foundation was quick to respond, committing to the full cost of the heart surgery.”

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Catheterization - a procedure where a tube is inserted into the body and threated though the blood vessels to the heart - was the first solution doctors considered. When that failed, they were left with no other option but heart surgery.

Bushra has been recovering well, since the operation in April 2017 and is now able to play with her friends and sleep peacefully.

She was helped by the foundation’s Farah programme.

Meaning ‘happiness’ in Arabic, it provides life-saving treatment, funds important research and offers hope to countless children and their families.

All funds raised through Farah are invested into medical treatment and research of children’s illnesses, so the investments will hopefully contribute to future cures for life threatening illnesses.

Since 2013, Al Jalila Foundation has invested Dh28 million to provide quality care and treatment to 369 patients, including 131 children.

The treatment costs have ranged from Dh20,000 to Dh250,000.

Euale during his chemotherapy treatment at Dubai Hospital. Courtesy Al Jalila Foundation
Euale during his chemotherapy treatment at Dubai Hospital. Courtesy Al Jalila Foundation

Little Euale Mengsitu Besir is another child to have been offered potentially lifesaving treatment from the fund.

When the two-year-old lost his appetite and developed a high fever, his dad Mengsitu Besir Shere, 41, an Ethiopian living in Ajman, took him to the doctor.

Euale was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in February last year.

“We were overwhelmed when doctors made the diagnosis,” said Mr Shere.

“It was very hard emotionally, physically and financially on the family.”

Chemotherapy treatment was carried out at Dubai Hospital, also paid for by the Farah fund and Euale is now in remission.

“Our lives have been forever changed and we are so grateful our son has regained his health and is full of energy again,” said Mr Besir Shere, 41, who works in labour recruitment.

“Al Jalila Foundation showed great compassion and care for our son. With their support our family could put all their energy into Euale’s healing.”

Leading cancer scientists in the UK have said most cases of childhood leukaemia could be brought on by common infections such as flu, and could be preventable in future.

A landmark analysis of more than 30 years of research by the Institute of Cancer Research has developed the theory that some infections could trigger the illness in genetically predisposed babies raised in germ-free environments.

Although one in 20 children are thought to be born with the pre-leukaemia mutation, just 1 per cent of them will go on to develop the disease.

It is the kind of research that could one day be developed at a purpose built Al Jalila research centre in Dubai.

As well as funding lifesaving operations, the Al Jalila Foundation promotes medical education by investing in the UAE’s medical treatment capabilities.

It is providing scholarships to nurture a home-grown generation of medical professionals.

A research centre will open this year in Dubai Healthcare City, hailed as a ‘beacon for regionally-relevant medical innovation’.

It will be the nation’s first independent multi-disciplinary medical research centre, focusing on five of the most pressing regional health challenges: cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity and mental health.