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RAWALPINDI: A speaker at a workshop on Friday said cousin marriage is the main cause for the high rate of eye diseases among newborns.

The Al-Shifa Trust director, retired Brig Rizwan Asghar, was speaking at the workshop held at the Al-Shifa Eye Hospital. The workshop was organised to discuss eye diseases, prevention and raise awareness about early treatment of eye diseases among children.

Mr Asghar said: “It is easy to cure an eye disease in childhood, rather than wait – that results in complications. Parents should consult an eye specialist as soon as possible.”

He said the founder of the trust, the late Gen Jahandad Khan, had envisioned a specialised eye hospital for children which would become a reality within two years. “It is a Rs1 billion project, and the required amount has been donated by local philanthropists,” he said.

The trust’s president, retired Lt Gen Hamid Javed, said an eye transplant costs about Rs120,000, and at Al-Shifa eye transplant surgeries are categorised into three groups.

“We try to conduct 20 transplants free of cost while the next 20 are subsidised and 20 are paid for by people who can bear the full dues,” he said.

Mr Javed said nearly two million people were prone to eye-related diseases in Pakistan, of which 80pc could be cured with timely intervention. He said one major obstacle to the provision of eye care to the needy was the lack of necessary facilities.

Mr Javed said the groundbreaking ceremony for a children’s eye hospital was recently performed by President Mamnoon Hussain, and the project would be completed within two years. He said doctors and support staff were already undergoing training.

Responding to questions, Mr Javed said Al-Shifa was part of a new initiative for eye donations from the United States and Canada. “At present, around 60 eye transplant operations are conducted per month, and we plan to increase the number of transplants to 100 in the next six months,” he said.

He also said Al-Shifa had planned to set up small eye treatment units in remote areas.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2016