Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Al Mustafa Welfare Society plans to establish university

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

After having completed a number of health and education projects with an investment of billions of rupees, the Al Mustafa Welfare Society, has started spadework on yet another grand project of establishing a university in Karachi.

This was disclosed by Chairman of the society, Haji Mohammed Hanif Tayyab, a former Federal Minister and President of Nizam-e-Mustafa party during a chat at the venue of a free medical camp in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, organized by Al-Mustafa Welfare Society as part of its ongoing humanitarian activities in the fields of health and education. 

Haji Hanif Tayyab, the soul behind various multi-billion health and education projects being run under Al Mustafa Welfare Society, was highly appreciative of Jumbo Karachi Guide when presented to him during the medical camp at the Pakistan Society for Scientists and Scientific Professions. 

The camp was visited by a large number of people from different walks of life which included former parliamentarians Usman Noori and Begum Qamarunnisa besides international cricketer Muhammad Sami. 

The Al Mustafa Welfare Society is registered as a non-governmental organization and is being run by a team of highly motivated intellectuals, social workers comprising of doctors, engineers, lawyers, business executives and representatives of various fields of life.

Haji Hanif Tayyab pointed out that the society has been serving thousands of poor and needy persons daily without discrimination of cast, creed and religion through its medical centers, clinics, schools, mosques Islamic centres, vocational training and skill development centers. 

He particularly referred to the establishment of a 100-bed Al Mustafa Medical Centre in Gulshan-e-Iqbal adding that it has been expanded to six floors to cater to the ever growing medical needs of needy people. 

He also informed Al Mustafa is also running medical centers in Shah Faisal Colony, Qasba More, Pak Kausar Colony and many other places in Karachi and many parts of the country besides Muzaffarabad in Azad Kashmir. 

He specially mentioned about Al Mustafa's "Kafalat Program" through which suffering and helpless people were being served since 1983.

The objective of Kafalat program is to help the families who do not have their guardian with them or they face any severe problem. 

After all the necessary assessment, the society provide them monthly food support, help them educate their children and also provide marriage assistance for girls of needy families. 

As regards the university, he informed that land for the purpose has been acquired and now preliminary work was being done to bring the project on ground. 

However, to a question, he said it is yet to be decided whether it will be an engineering or medical or a general university. 

He said that the Al Mustafa Society has started working on the idea on establishing a university after it successfully launched big educational projects for both boys and girls in localities like Korangi.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Prof Murad Khan elected IASP’s first Asian President

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Professor Murad Moosa Khan has been elected as the president of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), the first Asian as well as the first Pakistani in the 60-year history of the Association.

Murad Khan, professor of psychiatry at the Aga Khan University, was selected as head of the Association at the 29th IASP World Congress. 

“To me, this is a challenge as well as an opportunity to work with the global community, IASP professionals and volunteers, to prevent suicidal behaviour in our societies,” he said. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 800,000 people die due to suicide every year in the world and for 15-29 year olds, it is the second leading cause of death globally. Worse, for every suicide, there are many more people who attempt a suicide. 

Although no official data is available for Pakistan, it is estimated that between 130,000-300,000 people attempt suicide and 13,000-15,000 people take their lives every year. “Most suicides are preventable,” Prof Murad Khan stated. 

“In countries like Pakistan, social factors such as unemployment, lack of access to health, education, housing, transport, justice, and poor law and order create a lot of stress. Severe stress can lead to depression and other mental health illnesses that can lead the individual to think about committing suicide,” he added. 

He aims to work with key stakeholders and advise the government to invest in the mental health sector and come up with a suicide prevention strategy. 

“Pakistan needs a viable national mental health strategy, involving different stakeholders including the government, public and mental health professionals and NGOs,” he reckoned. 

“Training in the early recognition and management of common mental disorders has to be imparted to family doctors, lady health workers and community people. They should be able to discuss symptoms with their patients, help them deal with stigmas attached to mental health and teach them coping skills. Parallel to this it is crucial that affordable and accessible mental health services should be developed as well. People should know where they have to go if they suffer from depression or any mental health problems,” he continued. 

“Around 90 per cent of people who take their lives suffer from some sort of mental health illness at the time of suicide, of which clinical depression is the most common condition,” he concluded.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Modern medicine saving lives in Pakistan

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Shahmeer Khan was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, a rare and complex congenital heart defect in which he had a combination of four heart defects. A congenital heart defect, it is often called the blue baby syndrome because it causes the skin to turn bluish in color as a result of deoxygenated blood in the baby’s system. Congenital heart disease (CHD) is one of the most common developmental defects, occurring in one per cent of the population world-wide.

All babies who have Tetralogy of Fallot need corrective surgery. Without treatment, the child might not grow and develop properly. Untreated cases usually develop severe complications over time, which might result in death or disability by early adulthood. 

Shahmeer is among the growing ranks of children born with CHD, who are surviving, thanks to life-saving pediatric cardiology programmes such as the one at the Aga Khan University (AKU). 

“Life is a gift and due to some very specially trained people and people who take what they do seriously. Thanks to advances in treatment and care at AKUH, by the grace of the almighty, my child is still here and doing very well,” Shahmeer's mother said. 

Shahmeer was celebrating the success of his life-saving open heart surgery at AKUH with sponsors of the University’s Mending Kids’ Hearts campaign. Supporters of the campaign came together over a game of golf and to learn about the impact of their gift. 

The three-year effort to support CHD patients has raised over Rs 247 million from community partners, local corporations, private individuals and support from AKUH’s income allocated for welfare to offer enhanced services to the children in Pakistan. 

Each year, the congenital cardiac programme team at AKUH performs more than 400 paediatric cardiac procedures, including for the many miracle children like Shahmeer whose families could not afford the cost of these complex procedures. 

“Seeing the level of support Aga Khan University Hospital provided to us in our scariest and darkest hours makes me want to make a difference in the lives of other families facing the tough road,” Shahmeer's father said. 

As a leader in paediatric healthcare, AKUH remains passionately dedicated to its core purpose, providing access to healthcare for every child. 

"Increasing access to pediatric cardiac care is not an impossible goal. It is an achievable goal. AKUH remains committed to the well-being of our children," Hans Kedzierski, CEO, AKUH, remarked. 

Since the turn of the millennium, child deaths in Pakistan have been declining thanks to improved public health and poverty reduction efforts. More children need to be saved by 2030, the year that the UN Sustainable Development Goals call for the world to end preventable child deaths. 

“This target will not be met without addressing congenital heart disease, and we need to assist CHD patients who cannot afford this care” Dr Muneer Amanullah, an associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery, added.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Rotary gives another $53.5 million to help eradicate polio: Aziz Memon

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Rotary International, a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges has given another $53.5 million to help eradicate polio and challenges the world to continue the fight to end the disease.

This was disclosed by Aziz Memon, Chair, Pakistan’s PolioPlus Committee, who has been spearheading Rotary’s operations to drive out the deadly disease. 

With 22 confirmed cases in 2017 to date, and just one case in 2018, the world is on the brink of eradicating polio, a vaccine-preventable disease that once paralyzed hundreds of thousands of children each year. 

“Rotary is giving $53.5 million in grants to support immunization and surveillance activities led by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). More than half of the funds will support efforts to end polio in two of the three countries where polio remains endemic: Afghanistan ($12.03 million) and Pakistan ($19.31 million),” Aziz Memon revealed.

“Further funding will support efforts to keep 10 vulnerable countries polio-free: Cameroon ($1.61 million), Central African Republic ($428,000), Chad ($2.33 million), the Democratic Republic of Congo ($6.48 million), Ethiopia ($1.82 million), Iraq ($2 million), Niger ($1.71 million), Somalia ($3.29 million), South Sudan ($835,300), and Syria ($428,000). An additional $731,338 will fund research to be conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), and another $518,000 will go toward technical assistance in West and Central Africa,” he added. 

“While significant strides have been made against the disease, polio remains a threat in hard-to-reach and underserved areas and conflict zones. Despite a historically low case count, as long as a single child has polio, all children are at risk, which underscores the need for continued funding and political commitment to eradication,” the Rotary leader reckoned. 

“Rotary has committed to raising $150 million over the next three years, which will be matched 2-to-1 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, yielding $450 million for polio eradication activities, including immunization and surveillance,” Aziz Memon said.

“Rotary started its polio eradication program PolioPlus in 1985, and in 1988 became a partner in the GPEI, along with WHO, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” he recalled. 

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation later became a partner. Since the initiative launched, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to just 22 confirmed cases in 2017 (as of January 25, 2018). Rotary has contributed a total of more than $1.7 billion, including matching funds from the Gates Foundation, and countless volunteer hours to protect more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries from polio,” Aziz Memon stated. 

Rotary International connects 1.2 million members of more than 35,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work improves lives at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Emergency typhoid vaccine drive underway in Hyderabad

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Sindh health department has launched an emergency vaccination campaign in two regions of District Hyderabad to protect children from an outbreak of drug-resistant typhoid, a potentially lethal disease caused by poor sanitation and contaminated drinking water.

Around 250,000 children in Latifabad and Qasimabad, the worst-hit talukas in the district, will receive doses of the new Typbar-TCV vaccine. The vaccine is the only solution to preventing cases of this type of typhoid as increasing resistance to antibiotics has rendered existing medication ineffective. 

The researchers and laboratory staff from Aga Khan University, a partner in the immunization drive, have detected over 800 cases of drug-resistant typhoid in Hyderabad alone in a ten-month period between 2016 and 2017. 

This is an alarming development since only six cases of drug-resistant typhoid were found in the whole of Pakistan over a five-year period between 2009 and 2014. 

“We recently completed a pilot programme in the affected areas that saw high demand for the vaccine from the community and proved that the vaccine could be safely administered. The pilot provided us with valuable insights on how to effectively scale up the campaign and we look forward to working with our private sector partners so that we can reach every child in the affected areas,” Director General, Health, Sindh, Dr Muhammad Akhlaq Khan, remarked. 

The vaccination drive will be conducted over a three to four month period by 15 teams of vaccinators from Hyderabad’s health department. Vaccinators will be working alongside officials from the district health department, the provincial disease surveillance unit, the district administration and local government officials as well as private partners such as Aga Khan University and staff from the Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention during the emergency campaign. 

“This is the world’s first outbreak of typhoid that is resistant to the antibiotic, ceftriaxone, which is a standard treatment for the disease around the world,” Dr Farah Qamar, an associate professor in paediatrics and child health at AKU, said. 

"Our research has pinpointed the areas of Hyderabad district with the greatest need and showed that children represent the majority of those affected by the disease. We are glad to partner with government on this important initiative which will save lives and halt new cases of this preventable disease,” she added. 

Doses of the vaccine were purchased through funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Emergency Response fund after AKU researchers presented data about the outbreak - gathered from its extensive laboratory network in Hyderabad at an international summit in Uganda in April 2017. 

The control and prevention of neglected tropical diseases such as typhoid is a global health priority with targets under goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals calling for the eradication of such diseases by 2030. 

Dr Anita Zaidi, Director of Vaccine Development, Surveillance, and Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supported global efforts to generate evidence of the efficacy for this vaccine against typhoid fever. 

She said: “It is unconscionable that children are still dying by the thousands every year from diseases like typhoid that are completely preventable. We are pleased to support the Sindh government’s initiative as part of our overall strategy to combat typhoid through an integrated approach including access to clean water, improved sanitation, and immunization."

The researchers from AKU will be collecting data during the four-month vaccination drive to assess the impact of the typhoid conjugate vaccine in an outbreak setting. 

Findings from the study will inform efforts to tackle outbreaks of typhoid in other parts of the world and to investigate whether the vaccine should be made a part of Pakistan’s national immunization programme. 

The AKU faculty Professor Rumina Hasan from the department of pathology and microbiology, Dr Sadia Shakoor, an assistant professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine, and Dr Tahir Yousafzai, senior instructor in paediatrics and child health at AKU were also involved in the research and advocacy efforts to generate evidence on the prevalence of drug-resistant typhoid in Hyderabad.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Veteran Aligarhian passes away

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Muneer Muhammad Khan, Member, Executive Committee, Aligarh Muslim University Old Boys Association (AMUOBA) who passed away on January 13 was laid to rest at the DHA Graveyard in Karachi the following day. 

His Namaz-e-Janaza was offered at Mubarak Masjid in DHA Phase V Extension after Asr prayers which was attended by a large number of fellow Aligarhians, friends and relatives. 

Meanwhile in a condolence message, Engr Anwar Ali, Vice President, AMUOBA, has expressed his profound grief and sorrow over the death of Muneer Mohammed Khan and prayed that may Allah SWT rest the departed soul in eternal peace and grant fortitude to bereaved family to bear this loss.

Hajj balloting at AIT

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Aligarh Institute of Technology (AIT) has, for the first time, introduced Hajj ballot scheme for its employees and staff, Engr Anwer Ali, Convenor AIT, announced.

According to him, commencing from this year, the AIT will send two persons to hold land to perform the sacred ritual of Hajj at AIT expenses. 

He disclosed that two lucky employees were selected through ballot held at the AIT Auditorium on January 10. 

Engr Anwer Ali said that in order to facilitate the female employees, if they emerged successful in the ballot, the AIT was also going bear the expenses of her spouse/mehram. 

Meanwhile the staff of AIT has welcomed and praised the management for introducing Haj Balloting scheme, which is set to become a regular annual feature. 

They thanked Engr Anwer Ali, Convener AIT, for taking this noble step and expressed the hope that this practice will continue in future as well.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

AKU alumni give back through landmark donation

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
 (Pakistan News & Features Services)

Continuing their history of philanthropy to the University, alumni of the Class of 1992 have added to their gift to support physicians from underserved communities across Pakistan.

The Alumni and faculty members gathered to celebrate a landmark gift to the Aga Khan University (AKU) where the MBBS Class of 1992 added another gift of $250,000 to the endowment fund previously established in 2012 to celebrate their 20th graduation anniversary. 

The MBBS Class of 1992 Endowment Fund was established to support the Medical College in perpetuity and in its commitment to making continuing medical education accessible to more physicians who work in underserved communities across Pakistan and who come to AKU for workshops, research symposiums, CME lectures and other research related activities specific to Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME) students training at AKU. 

This latest gift is the most recent example of AKU Alumni’s generosity toward their alma mater. A career in medicine and caring for vulnerable patient populations is itself a way of endowing society, but the alumni clearly value the concept of paying it forward. 

Proceeds from the fund will continue to enable the University to open its doors to many more students from other medical institutions across Pakistan to attend world class conferences and workshops at AKU, to more closely connect them, through the curriculum, with advances in medicine so as to better care for the communities where they come from. 

It will also support education of undergraduate students from some of Pakistan’s most underserved communities requiring financial assistance to access world-class medical education.

“AKU has opened up new worlds for me and my classmates. It has offered me new perspectives, which allowed me to fulfill my dreams. Looking back over many years of practice, we know that medical education is our most valuable possession. It is a privilege every day to practice medicine as it helps to ground us and humble us. It has been a lifetime of learning, growth and service,” Dr Faiz Bohra, who along with Dr Mumtaz Khan signed the agreement on behalf of their class, remarked. 

They acknowledged the efforts of Dr Muneer Abidi and Dr Obeid Ilahi in championing this gift. Graduates of MBBS 1992 from within and outside Pakistan, attended the ceremony, along with the Faculty of Health Sciences staff and learnt first-hand the impact that the MBBS Class of 1992 Endowment has already created. 

“Our education at AKU prepared us well for the challenges of medicine. As students, we focused on didactic and clinical work, the tasks of becoming a doctor. However, we learned many things we were not aware of excellence, compassion, resilience, passion, teamwork, commitment and intellectual curiosity that have made all the difference in our success. We attribute this to the strong mentors at AKU, many of them women setting high standards for patient care and education, yet able to show the joy in their work and the human aspects of medicine” Dr Khan added. 

“Our alumni believe giving back is their responsibility. We sincerely hope that this gesture will inspire other alumni to personally contribute to the advancement of medical education,” Dr Farhat Abbas, Dean of the Medical College, observed. 

AKU alumni are part of a supportive, cohesive community that spans the globe and endures for a lifetime. From lifelong relationships to memories of life on the Stadium Road Campus, there are innumerable reasons alumni choose to support their alma mater. 

Every year, more alumni give back in celebration of reunions, as volunteers, or through annual gifts, and they are not shy about sharing why. AKU is a world-renowned institution that contributes a significant amount to the advancement of society, with a particular focus on serving disadvantaged, underserved, and indigent populations. 

Graduates from AKU work in numerous countries around the world, which allows the University’s reach to be felt on a global scale. AKU alumni play a major role in both the domestic and international economies. By educating the next generation of highly-educated, global citizens, the University is shaping a skilled workforce that will transform and lead an emerging global economy.