WHO work in Syria continues amid conflict and lack of funds

Since armed unrest erupted more than 4 years ago in Syria, resulting in huge movements of the population inside the country and spilling into neighbouring countries, WHO has taken a lead role – one that continues in the face of crippling funding shortfalls – to support the displaced. WHO staff have been working to ensure that:

- life-saving medicines and medical supplies reach Syrians and the region’s host populations and governments;

- technical assistance is given to the region’s ministries of health, with healthcare workers being trained;

- mass vaccination campaigns are supported; and

- the ability to monitor outbreaks of communicable diseases is boosted.

The numbers are overwhelming: Inside Syria, the conflict, now a civil war – has left 12.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, with more than 7.6 million of them internally displaced, according to UNHCR.

More than 4 million Syrians are registered as refugees and are living outside their country, the refugee agency has reported. The 1.1 million Syrians now living in Lebanon represent a third of that country’s population. In Jordan, some 600,000 Syrians have found refuge.

“The magnitude of needs continues to escalate,” said Dr Nada Al Ward, coordinator of WHO’s Emergency Support Team based in Amman. “More than 4 years on and we’re seeing the same urgent health needs we saw in 2011, but on a much larger scale – trauma cases, severe mental health needs, communicable and non-communicable diseases, reproductive health issues. More needs to be responded to, despite the challenges.”

Though intense fighting and shifting zones of conflict have hindered the ability of health workers to reach some areas, WHO has nevertheless enabled the medical treatment of more than 13.8 million people this year across Syria. Those efforts have included the provision of medical care and life-saving equipment and supplies to such hard-to-reach areas as Aleppo, Ar-Raqqah, Dara’a, Deir ez-Zor and Idleb.

Services provided have included medical consultations, trauma management and general surgeries, regular and caesarean deliveries, eye surgeries, heart catheterization and x-ray and laboratory services through WHO mobile clinics.

WHO cross-border activities from hubs in Turkey and Jordan have increased the organization’s assistance to populations in need in Syria.

“Cross-border activities complement WHO efforts inside Syria and target vulnerable communities in the north and south of the country,” said Dr Al Ward. “Through this mechanism and UN interagency convoys, we are able to reach even more Syrians in need.”

WHO has also been supporting the ministries of health of Jordan and Lebanon to ensure adequate and equitable health care service provision for both Syrian refugees and their host communities. This year, more than 700,000 Syrians were provided with healthcare consultations in Lebanon.

In the first 6 months of 2015, more than 34 ,000 Syrian children in Jordan were vaccinated against polio and measles, and more than 46,000 Syrians received secondary mental healthcare consultations.

WHO continues to support the provision of medications to treat non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension – diseases that represent a major burden of illness for Syrians.

With the conflict in Syria showing no sign of abating, it is unclear how long the emergency health response will be needed in the Middle East. Funds, however, are not keeping pace with the growing needs, and the health sector, drastically underfunded, is struggling to keep health systems from collapsing. The health component of the 2015 Syria response plan (SRP) is only 30% funded, while the health component in the regional refugee and resilience plan (3RP) is only 17% funded.

“It is imperative that the health sector in this region is adequately funded to ensure refugee and host population needs are catered to,” said Dr Al Ward. “Migration into Europe may alleviate some of the burden on these countries, but not much. The international community must continue to support the countries doing the heavy lifting.”

enritsch.com provides free service to help people achieve wellbeing

A new website has launched which provides a free service to help people to discover, and maintain, a positive state of physical, mental and social wellbeing. The launched of enritsch.com coincides with World Mental Health Day. Recent findings by the WHO highlight that one in every four, or 25%, of the planet’s 7 billion people, suffer from some form of mental illness, including anxiety and depression. This places mental disorders among the leading causes of ill health and disability world-wide.

While various forms of treatment are available, the WHO states that two-thirds of people suffering never seek help. Primarily due to fears of stigma and discrimination, individuals are left with feelings of loneliness and isolation. From children dealing with schoolyard bullying, to executives coping with workplace pressures – the need to put the spotlight on enabling people to attain inner wellbeing, never seemed so timely.

enritsch.com enables people to get help from the privacy of their homes. This free service enables members to access information and a range of resources; seek expert advice; locate, and post reviews on service providers-enabling them to make informed decisions.

Sidra doctor wins top pediatric nephrology award

Dr Ibrahim Shatat, Senior Attending Physician and Medical Director in Pediatric Nephrology and Hypertension at Sidra Medical and Research Center (Sidra) in Doha was voted among the Top Doctors in the Field of Pediatric Nephrology by Castell Connolly – the firm used by US News and World Reports to rank top hospitals. As a pediatric nephrologist, Dr Shatat specializes in treating children with kidney or urinary tract diseases; bladder problems; kidney stones or high blood pressure. His specialty also includes kidney transplants and taking care of dialysis patients.

Castle Connolly Medical based its selection process on peer nominations. The Castle Connolly physician-led research team carefully reviews the credentials of every physician being considered for inclusion in Castle Connolly Guides, magazine articles and website. The review includes, amongst other factors, scrutiny of medical education; training; board certifications; hospital appointments; administrative posts; professional achievements; malpractice and disciplinary history.

Dr Shatat, who has been at Sidra Medical and Research Center since December 2014, said: “I am delighted that my contributions to the field of pediatric nephrology have been appreciated and acknowledged by my peers in the medical field. I am looking forward to having a similar impact in Qatar and regionally with the world-class team of physicians and healthcare professionals we have here at Sidra.”

Before joining Sidra, Dr Shatat was the Chief of Pediatric Nephrology and Hypertension at the Medical University of South Carolina, where he led the division to rank among the top pediatric nephrology programs in the US.

HMC marks World Lymphoma Awareness Day

about 10% of all children diagnosed with cancer at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), according to Dr Naima Al Mulla, Senior Consultant at HMC’s Pediatric Hematology and Oncology section based at Hamad General Hospital (HGH).

Speaking on the occasion of World Lymphoma Awareness Day, which is celebrated globally on 15 September every year to raise awareness of the importance of early detection and treatment of this cancer, the HGH cancer expert said: “While the survival rates for childhood cancers are better than those for adult cancers, early diagnosis and treatment are important to avoid the need for significant therapy to treat the cancer and to reduce the risk of a relapse.”

Lymphoma develops in certain cells of the immune system known as lymphocytes. The cancer may start from the bone marrow, lymph nodes, spleen, tonsils, thymus or other lymphatic tissues as well as the lymph vessels that connect them. There are two main categories of lymphoma: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The type of abnormal cells identified in a biopsy sample determines what type of lymphoma is present in a patient.

Dr Al Mulla said symptoms to watch out for include unexplained swelling on the neck, underarm or groin, weight loss, fever, night sweats, weakness, chest pain or trouble breathing, and abdominal swelling. At an advanced stage, lymphoma may present with high fever and weight loss, she said.

About half of all children with lymphoma receiving care at HMC’s Pediatric Hematology and Oncology section have Hodgkin lymphoma, while the other half have non-Hodgkin lymphoma which has many different subtypes. The mainstay of therapy for both types of lymphoma is chemotherapy and in both cases at least 90% of patients can be cured when the disease is diagnosed and treated at an early stage.

When treated at an advanced stage, patients with Hodgkin lymphoma have a slightly lessened chance of survival but may need more intensive chemotherapy and in some cases radiotherapy as well. Non- Hodgkin lymphoma, on the other hand, is a more aggressive tumor that quickly develops and spreads to other areas of the body and this can reduce the chance of survival if the cancer is treated at a late stage.

Radiotherapy, which uses high-energy radiation to treat cancer, is not used for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and is used only when necessary for Hodgkin lymphoma (depending on the stage of the disease and the response after chemotherapy cycles) as this type of therapy has certain side effects, including reduced bone growth and an increased risk of secondary cancer in the long term. To avoid unnecessary radiotherapy and in accordance with highly advanced protocols, HMC uses Positron Emission Tomography or PET scanning after chemotherapy to determine whether a patient actually needs radiotherapy as further treatment.

HMC calls for greater awareness of sepsis

In recognition of World Sepsis Day, on 13 September, Qatar’s Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) urged all healthcare professionals and the public to learn more about sepsis, a potentially life-threatening disorder triggered by infection, and the importance of preventing infections that can lead to sepsis.

Director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) at Hamad General Hospital (HGH), Dr. Ibrahim Fawzy explained: “Sepsis occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream - as a response to infection - cause inflammatory responses. This inflammation can stimulate a cascade of changes that can drastically affect multiple organ systems.”

“While sepsis can be caused by viral or fungal infections, bacterial infections are by far the most common cause,” he added.

The Critical Care team at the MICU is actively involved in raising awareness of six simple steps that include tried and tested guidelines for managing sepsis. Known as the ‘Sepsis Six’, this bundle of therapies has been associated with decreased mortality, decreased length of stay in hospital, and fewer intensive care bed days. The Sepsis Six Protocol educates staff about sepsis, its causes, symptoms and ways of prevention. Senior Consultant in MICU and Anesthesia, and the Clinical Lead for the Severe Sepsis Project, Dr Ahmed Labib, highlighted that anyone can develop sepsis.

However, the condition is most common and potentially most dangerous in older adults and those with weakened immune systems, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or leukemia.

Meeting aims to align healthcare regulators and med tech industry

Mecomed, the MENA Devices and Diagnostics Trade Association, hosted the region’s first exclusive gathering between healthcare regulators and medical-technology professionals on 30 September 2015 in Dubai. The meeting aimed to better align their positions and help patients gain timely access to high quality life-saving therapies.

The MENA MedTech Regulatory Symposium offered a unique opportunity for the region’s MedTech regulatory professionals and leaders to learn directly from healthcare authorities about the latest updates in regional and international regulations of medical devices and diagnostics, and exchange experiences and reports on key regulatory topics. Participants also had the chance to identify focus areas for increasing patient access to safe and innovative therapies.

Mecomed brought together key stakeholders from the region’s regulatory authorities to address topics such as quality management, development of regional and global collaborative schemes, pharmacovigilance, clinical trials, and adaptation of regulatory practices to new technologies. The inaugural event was opened by His Dr Amin Hussain Al Amiri, the Assistant Undersecretary for Public Health Policy and License Sector for UAE Ministry of Health, and Chairman of the UAE Supreme National Blood Transfusion Committee. Dr Al Amiri was joined by key regional healthcare authority figures including, Hussam Mohammed Alaeq, Section Head of Scientific and Technical Review at Saudi Food & Drug Authority, Anan Saleh Abu Hassan, Director Assistant of Medical Devices Directorate and Head of Cosmetics Department at Jordan Food and Drug Administration, and Dr Miriam Boles Kostandy and Dr Noha Osama Mohamed Abdel Monaem from Ministry of Health, Egypt.

Rami Rajab, Mecomed Chairman and VP Governmental Affairs of Sorin Group, said: “The MedTech industry needs to be clear on the steps to follow to ensure they are complying with regulations in each market so patients can have access to treatment in a timely and cost effective manner and what better way to learn than directly from the source.”

The event’s international speakers included Dr Peter Drechsler, unannounced audits expert and former head of Test Laboratory for Non-Active Medical Devices at TÜV SÜD in Munich, who covered updates on European regulations and unannounced audits, and Joanna Koh, an expert in medical device regulations from Singapore, who presented an introduction and guidance to well-balanced regulatory controls.

“Participants benefited from comprehensive presentations on regional and global issues at stake in the MENA regulatory environment and had the opportunity to engage in panel sessions that enabled in-depth discussions and knowledge sharing such as how European regulations impact on the MENA region,” Rajab added.

MENA Stroke Initiative expands across region

World stroke experts gathered 22 October 2015 for the 3rd MENA Stroke Conference in Dubai.

Stroke is the second highest cause of death worldwide and a leading cause of disability – and the MENA region is no exception. At least 20,000 new strokes, 4,000 deaths and 8,000 disabilities occur each year across KSA, and around 210,000 people suffer stroke each year in Egypt.

“Each year over 7,000 people suffer from a stroke in the UAE. These figures are large now, but the projections for the Middle East and North Africa suggest the rate of stroke will nearly double over the next 15 years,” said Dr Suhail Al-Rukn, a stroke specialist at Rashid Hospital, Dubai Health Authority, and President of the Emirates Neurology Society. “So it’s vital that we address this major health problem now,” he added.

The conference featured an update on the ‘MENA Stroke Initiative’ – a dedicated stroke program from the Emirates Neurology Society supported by Boehringer Ingelheim – that is being rolled out across the region. The initiative aims to tackle the problem head on by making quicker, lifesaving treatment available to those affected.

Karim El Alaoui, Managing Director of Boehringer Ingelheim, Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META), said the aim of the initiative was to develop an integrated and sustainable healthcare system that ensures the delivery of comprehensive and excellent services to people experiencing a stroke.

“Over the last 12 months we have 19 sites enrolled in the initiative, which runs in four phases. First a site is established, then enters a progressing phase until it is ready for validation and auditing, and the final phase is certification – after which the stroke unit is up and running independently,” he said. “Our vision is to contribute towards a healthy, happy, and safe community.”

The sites are in the UAE, KSA, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and Egypt with further expansion expected throughout 2016.

“The MENA Stroke Initiative is already starting to make a difference,” said Dr Al-Rukn. “Providing access to specialist stroke units means people get the best treatment more quickly. We call this ‘the golden hour’ – a critical window to treat stroke victims. Not only does this save lives, it can reduce the burden of disability that many stroke survivors experience.” “With regular expert meetings, continued investment in the MENA Stroke Initiative, and activities to increase stroke awareness and prevention I believe it should be possible to slow the rising rate of stroke across the region,” he said.

Medcare opens 10th clinic in Dubai

DM Healthcare officially launched their 10th multi-speciality medical centre. The new clinic in Dubai Marina is part of an ongoing expansion drive by Medcare to provide quality and specialised healthcare to the community.

Dr Azad Moopen, Chairman of Aster DM Healthcare led the opening ceremony with Ala Atari, CEO of Medcare Hospitals & Medical Centres and Ahmad Bin Eisa Alserkal, Board Member of Dubai Insurance, Board Member of Al Jalila Cultural Centre for Children and Board member of Dubai Autism Center, among other posts.

“Today, we have reached an important milestone with the opening of our 10th clinic within our eight years of existence. Our growth is a testament of our commitment to provide quality healthcare to the community and we intend to widen our reach. Soon, we will be opening more multi-specialty clinics including a dedicated centre for women as well as a Mother & Child Specialty Hospital on Sheikh Zayed Road,” said Atari.

The new multi-specialty medical centre provides advanced and comprehensive care. The key services offered in this centre are family medicine, internal medicine, ENT, paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology, dermatology, orthopaedic surgery, physiotherapy, X-ray, laboratory and a pharmacy.


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