A charitable health organisation has offered the Sindh government to run its half a dozen thalassaemia centres which have been lying functionless for years after completion in different cities of the province, including Karachi, saying it could make them functional under a public-private partnership provided ample resources are given with no strings attached.
Afzaal Memorial Thalassaemia Foundation (AMTF), which recently won the 3g (Global Good Governance) Cambridge IFA Award for running Pakistan’s first free of charge Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for patients suffering from thalassaemia and other blood diseases, has been working for awareness and conventional treatment of the genetic blood disorder since 2003 in Karachi and other cities of Sindh.
“We are perhaps the only health organisation in the country which has been running a free of charge paediatric ICU for the last seven years where around 4,000 children have been treated for thalassaemia and its complications,” eminent haematologist (blood diseases specialist) Dr Asim Qidwai told a news conference at the AMTF hospital in Karachi.
Accompanied by Executive Director AMTF Atiq-ur-Rehman, eminent neurologist Prof Dr Abdul Malik, Director Finance Rehman Ahmed and others, Dr Qidwai said it was a pride moment for Pakistan that one of its charitable organisations working in the field of health had been selected by international agencies and conferred with Global Good Governance 3G Children Welfare Award – Cambridge IFA in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Founded in 2003 for providing blood transfusion services to children suffering from thalassaemia, Afzaal Memorial Thalassaemia Foundation now runs a state-of-the-art diagnostic laboratory, heart and neurology clinic, provides latest radiology services, in addition to provision of conventional treatment of thalassaemia major in the country.
Dr Qidwai claimed that an Italian team has given them a go-ahead for starting Bone-Marrow-Transplant (BMT) services at their center keeping in view the latest facilities available with them, but he added that they were now in the process of acquiring and pooling up financial resources so that the state-of-the-art treatment for thalassaemia and genetic blood diseases could be offered to children free of charge.
Responding to queries of newsmen, he said the AMTF was one of the best thalassaemia treatment and management centres in Pakistan and if the provincial government approached them to run its thalassaemia centres, which had yet to be made functional, they had the capacity and capability to make these centres operational.
“Unfortunately, neither the provincial nor the federal government has ever contacted us to learn from our experiences and expertise in the field of thalassaemia management and eradication,” Dr Qidwai said.He added that they were ready to assist the government provided they were given required resources without any political interference.
End of thalassaemia
Speaking about thalassaemia eradication from Pakistan, Dr Qidwai said it could not be eliminated from our soil unless couples having thalassemia genes were stopped from marriage and that could only be possible through awareness, not legislation.
“In order to make our children aware of thallassaemia and its prevention, we need to include information about it in our curricula. Our 8th and 12th graders need to know that thalassaemia is a hereditary disease, which can be prevented if people are screened for it before marriage and thalassaemia major persons should not marry each other to prevent birth of children with this disease,” he said.
He added that several other countries including Iran, Cyprus, Bahrain and several others had wiped out this diseases through awareness and screening.
According to Dr Qidwai, several foreign countries, including the government of Japan, many consulates operating in Karachi, multinational companies, pharmaceutical firms and philanthropists were supporting them in treatment and management of thalassaemia patients, who were being provided state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment facilities without charging a single penny from parents.
He maintained that they were now heading towards the establishment of an institute of blood diseases where all blood disorders, including thalassaemia, would be treated free of charge.
“Our donors have committed resources for the acquisition of land and the construction of a modern institute of blood diseases and Inshallah very soon this project would be kicked off,” he said.
He also urged the authorities to support organisations like the AMTF in its endeavours. Atiq-ur-Rehman, executive director of the AMTF, and eminent neurologist Dr Abdul Malik urged the provincial and federal governments to come forward, realise their responsibilities in prevention and treatment of diseases and help organisations like the AMTF, which, they said, were gaining international fame and importance so that they could reach a lot more children suffering from genetic blood disorders.