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KARACHI, Jan 2: The Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) will offer free cochlear implants to 50 more children born with a congenital hearing disability this year, said DUHS vice chancellor Prof Dr Masood Hameed Khan on Wednesday.

He made the announcement during a press conference held at the Ojha campus of the DUHS.

He said that the DUHS had allocated Rs10 million from its own resources for the cochlear implant project which is also supported by the International Medical Relief Agency (IMRA), a London-based NGO.

Prof Khan said that IMRA would also provide funds and both organisations would bear the cost of 25 cochlear implants each, to be procured at a high price from abroad.

However, he said, operational and structural costs of the surgeries would be met by the DUHS.

Prof Khan said that the first two implant surgeries performed on Dec 13 had paved the way for more free surgeries for children from all over the country on a regular basis. The university might also invite philanthropists to donate funds for the project, a first of its kind in public-sector hospitals in the country, he added.

The official in charge of the cochlear implant project, DUHS pro-vice chancellor Prof Umer Farooq, said that following the publicity of the first two implant surgeries, parents from other provinces had been contacting the university to avail themselves of the facility and donate money. He said that negotiations were also under way with reputable manufacturers to procure implant devices on subsidised rates on a regular basis.

Prof Farooq, who performed the surgeries with other doctors on Dec 13, appealed to philanthropists to donate money, and the Sindh governor and the chief minister to grant special funds for the proposed procurement of implant devices.

Talking about the first two patients, he said that the post-surgical progress of both girls was good and they would probably begin special therapy for language cognizance sometime in February when the implant device would be switched on.

Prof Farooq said that the university had already opened registration for children seeking implants, adding that so far 13 potential cases had approached the university. The cochlear implant surgeries, which cost around Rs2.5 million in private hospitals, would begin on a regular basis in March, he added.

IMRA representative Dr Haroon Zafarullah Khan, who is also an ENT surgeon, said that he was satisfied with the performance of the DUHS team and expressed the hope that the cochlear implant programme would continue in public-sector hospitals in the country.

He announced presenting the DUHS with 200 hearing aids and a donation of 100,000 pounds, which would be raised by the Pakistani community living in the UK.

Replying to a question, he said that besides implant surgeries the children would need the help of their parents and family members to be able to recognise various sounds and learn to speak. The entire exercise depended on the maintenance of the device and how well the mental receptors worked, he added.