London (December 2013): A team of around two-dozen senior doctors and surgeons from the UK will travel to the remote areas of Azad Kashmir in March next year to treat poor children and families for free. The visit is being organized by a UK based welfare charity, working in Azad Kashmir for over 21 years, as part of its 1000 Smiles4Kashmir programme. At a seminar in the House of Lords, the project coordinator Dr Adeel Iqbal announced that the delegation would stay in Azad Kashmir for two weeks and will administer treatment to at least 160 patients with complex surgical conditions, besides carrying a large quantity of medicines from the UK.
The seminar was hosted by Lord Eric Avebury, who has had a long interest in Kashmir and Pakistan, Lord Qurban Hussain, Ishfaq Ahmed, Professor Alan Fenwick from Imperial College, Professor Elio Riboli from Global Health London, Professor Majeed, Chair of Primary Care, Dr BK Sinha, Dr Charles Viva (Head of Interplast UK), Dr Mark Smith (Consultant Anaesthetist at The Royal Brompton Hospital), Alison Stutt (Head of International Development, Barts andLondon Hospital) and Dr Athar Khatib, a world renowned Consultant Ophthalmologist.
Dr Adeel Iqbal, who was born in Britain but his parents hail from Mangla in Azad Kashmir, said the recruitment for the project in March 2014, is actively underway and nurses, doctors, surgeons, anesthetists, logisticians and volunteers are being recruited. He told The News: “This will be the start of the biggest ever medical delegation that will travel to Azad Kashmir. There is so much poverty in parts of Azad Kashmir that some patients find it hard to travel to the central hospital where we are conducting our operations; therefore we will send doctors into these areas to carry out pre-operatives assessments to help triage patients. We need to use our resources and connections to help people in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir by providing them with a healthy lifestyle.”
He went on: “These efforts are in need of amplification and assimilation in other parts of the region to not only treat patients but train local surgeons to deal with complex pathology natively. I am delighted that medical students and doctors from the region want to send their students to learn from these delegations.” Ishfaq Ahmed, who heads the charity and is overseeing the initiative, said he is pleased with the progress being made but more needs to be done to serve the needs of the people of Kashmir and Pakistan. “I will be flying out to the region soon to increase the campaign to register patients from Pakistan and Azad Kashmir.
We will also be launching the micro-credit project which will allow widowed women to start businesses to help sustain their families.” Consultant Surgeon Dr Charles Viva, who has already flown to the region twice in the last two years, commented that he has been very impressed with the staff at the Community Hospital in Jatlan, Mirpur, where he has been performing the operations. “I have seen extreme levels of sickness in the region. It’s unbelievable that while there is so much focus on the African countries and the plight of people there, it’s equally important the same level of attention should also be paid to regions like Pakistan where the level of diseases is only mounting by the day.” Lord Eric Avebury and Lord Qurban Hussain said they were impressed with this initiative, especially on such little overheads. They said the initiative needs support of anyone who cares for the medical needs of the poor families.
Reported by The News