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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 1 March 2021

Abu Dhabi public urged to support Dh5m organ donation campaign

Funds will raise awareness about how organ transplants save lives

The Abu Dhabi authorities are launching a community appeal to support the country's organ donation programme.

The public is being urged to back a Dh5 million ($1.3m) fund-raising drive to improve the perception of organ donations and support families.

Although organ transplants are usually covered by insurance, and at times by government funds, there are certain areas that require community support.

Accommodation costs or airline tickets for donors who come from overseas to donate to their loved ones in the UAE is one area where support is needed.

This money will make a huge difference

Dr Ali Al Obaidli, head of the UAE Organ Donation and Transplant Committee

In 2017, the UAE introduced a milestone organ transplant programme. Since then, heart, lung, liver, pancreas and kidney transplants have saved the lives of more than 100 people.

The joint initiative seeks to build on that and comes from Ma’an, the Department of Community Development, and the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company's National Programme for Organs and Tissues Donations.

“This money will make a huge difference because it symbolises community contribution," said Dr Ali Al Obaidli, head of the UAE Organ Donation and Transplant Committee.

The authorities are now supporting what is known as "paired kidney exchange". This is when pairs of donors with kidneys that do not match are grouped with other non-matching pairs so that everyone who is donating can find a recipient.

Previously in the UAE, patients could receive a live transplant from a relative or close friend only.

“The funds will be used for several initiatives to support organ donations and transplantation such as awareness, community outreach programmes and training," Dr Al Obaidli said.

Surgeons perform a heart operation at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. The UAE’s transplant programme has changed the lives of countless people since it was introduced in 2017. Courtesy: Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi
Surgeons perform a heart operation at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. The UAE’s transplant programme has changed the lives of countless people since it was introduced in 2017. Courtesy: Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

“Sometimes a relative is able to donate but if that person is working and needs to be away from work for a few months, many countries have initiatives that support the individual during this period.

"Countries with an organ transplant programme are trying to find solutions for bottlenecks where you may have someone who is fully willing to donate but may have some obstacles.”

"We don’t want the generosity of the donors to result in more hardships," Dr Al Obaidli said.

The news comes as the UAE steps up its organ transplant scheme. A long-standing exchange programme with Saudi Arabia could be extended to other countries. The UAE could also offer its facilities to countries that lack the medical capacity to perform transplants.

The authorities set an August 30 deadline for the fund-raising target and people can donate by visiting Ma'an’s website.

"We aim to raise money but also enhance the community culture and perception of organ donations,” said Fahad Al Ahbabi, acting executive director of Ma'an's social investment fund.

Mr Al Ahbabi said there were more than 1,500 patients in the UAE on dialysis machines who may need transplants.

"We have recently highlighted the beautiful story of Alia and Buti Alhamedh, a brother and sister who went through a kidney transplant, which really showcased just how much of a difference organ donation can make to someone’s life.

“Alia discovered she was ill a few years back on her birthday. She had to go on to dialysis, which took its toll mentally and physically.

"Buti insisted she take his kidney and although at first she refused, she realised how ill she was and agreed.

"Since the operation, Buti and Alia have made a recovery, with Buti exceeding all expectations and returning to sports."

Updated: January 10, 2021 05:42 PM

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