Emirates’ mobile clinic mission brings health to thousands overseas

ABU DHABI Article syndicated from “The National” Last month, Rose Muruies arrived at a hospital in Juba and had to be guided inside by her family.

After a short surgical procedure, the seven-year-old girl left seeing properly for the first time in her young life.

Rose, who suffered from congenital glaucoma that left her almost blind, was just one of 6,500 people to receive free medical treatment at the Emirates International Humanitarian Mobile Hospital, which has been stationed in southern Sudan for the past four months.

“Every member of the hospital felt happy for her and her family,” Dr Adel al Shamry, the chief executive of the Zayed Giving Initiative and the hospital’s executive director, said upon his return to the UAE from Sudan, recalling one of their more memorable procedures.

“They were very appreciative and grateful, which just encouraged us to do more.”

With its mission in the region now complete, the hospital and staff are due to be deployed early next year to Morocco, where they will remain for another four-month stint.

The mission to Juba, which began in July, was the first for the Emirates mobile hospital. Inside the collapsible structure are hospital wards, an intensive care unit, operating theatre, waiting rooms and a pharmacy. The facility can be packed and flown to remote locations around the world.

The aim, said Dr al Shamry, was to bring first-rate medical care to remote regions such as south Sudan – a concept supported by Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Ruler’s Representative to the Western Region and chairman of the UAE Red Crescent Authority (RCA).

Over the past four months the hospital provided operations, outpatient care, training for medical professionals and programmes for remote communities in south Sudan to increase awareness about health issues.

“We had one main goal, to provide better health care to those who most need it,” Dr al Shamry said.

The Emirates International Humanitarian Mobile Hospital team in Juba was made up of 50 Emirati, Sudanese and international medical professionals and support staff who volunteered their time.

“This is a unique project, with multilateral participation, led by the UAE and supported by the UAE,” said Dr al Shamry. “Our hospital is set up as a sustained programme, to relieve suffering, irrespective of religion, sex or race. We are not responding to wars or disasters, but to daily needs.”

Over the past four months, malaria, typhoid and TB were among the most common conditions the team treated. The medical staff also saw an unexpectedly high number of patients suffering from heart-related conditions, including high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, according to Dr al Shamry.

Dr Elhaj Kambal, the secretary general of the Sudanese Medical Association in the UAE and a key member of the team, said he was very pleased Juba was chosen as the hospital’s first stop.

“The hospital did a lot. We were very happy because my people in the south are in very bad need of medical and other services,” he said in an interview in the UAE. “Because of years of war in that area, the standard of living is below zero.”

Juba is the capital of Central Equatoria, a state in the semi-autonomous southern region of Sudan. The state has a population of 560,000, but only 113 health facilities, according to UN figures.

The region has been ravaged by two decades of ethnic conflict between the Muslim north and the mostly Christian south. Between 1983 and 2005, two million people died and four million fled their homes because of the violence.

After four months in Morocco, Dr al Shamry and his team will travel to Syria or Lebanon. The hospital is expected to travel to three destinations each year.

The hospital is run by a board, comprised of members from several partner organisations, including the Ministries of Health, Interior and Defence, the RCA, the Zayed Foundation and the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, along with private sector representatives. According to Dr al Shamry, Dh20 million (US$5.4m) a year has been set aside for the three-year project, funded by the partner organisations.

“This was a unique experience that any surgeon would love to experience,” he said. “It takes us beyond our offices and hospitals to acquire new skills and knowledge and to deal with things you don’t see in regular practice.”

Three members of the team contracted malaria while in southern Sudan, and one doctor was admitted to intensive care upon his return to France.

“We really have to acknowledge those volunteers and experts,” Dr al Shamry said. “They put their lives at risk because they believed in a cause. It was about the feeling of hope and life; to see the smile of on the face of a child who had been crying in pain.”