Pakistanis in UAE unite to build Dh35m diabetes hospital

65 expatriates are supporting the project and the hospital is expected to be completed in 2016 at a cost of Dh35m.

The Diabetes Centre in Islamabad will offer free treatment to diabetes patients, as well as provide preventive education. Ravindranath K / The National
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ABU DHABI // A diabetes hospital is being built in Pakistan thanks to the generosity of expatriates from the UAE.

The Diabetes Centre in Islamabad will offer free treatment to diabetes patients, as well as provide preventive education.

Dr Asjad Hameed, the director of the centre, is a diabetes and endocrinology consultant at a hospital in the capital.

“Being a doctor, I am often approached by blue-collar workers, especially taxi drivers, in the mosque for medical advice,” he said.

“Most of the time I find that they are diabetic. In fact, I believe, at least 90 per cent of Pakistani [taxi] drivers in the UAE are suffering from diabetes because of an unhealthy lifestyle, work and emotional stress,” said Dr Hameed, who has previously worked in the UK and Ireland.

“I realised that if Pakistani blue-collar workers in the UAE cannot afford to take this disease seriously then it must be an even worse situation back home. This led to the dream of establishing a diabetes centre in Pakistan.”

In 2011, he shared the idea with two friends during a morning walk.

Each of them contributed Dh250,000 to buy land in Pakistan and start building.

They soon realised they needed more money, so they appealed to their peers for assistance.

Now 65 benefactors in Abu Dhabi are supporting the project.

They meet every Friday morning over breakfast to discuss the hospital’s progress.

Mahmood Moosa, a managing director with a multinational company in Abu Dhabi, has been backing the project for two years. He is helping the centre by setting up its IT systems and also working for the disbursement of medicine at the pharmacy.

“It’s a responsibility of all the expats living abroad to do something good for his or her country. We can make a difference with our actions and make our country a better place,” he said.

“My mother suffered from diabetes. It is a silent killer and when I see so many people in our country suffering from the disease, my commitment to the project becomes stronger.”

The hospital is expected to be completed in 2016, said Ghias Ur Rehman, a civil engineer who is in charge of the construction. He said the total cost of the hospital should be about

Dh35 million.

Mohammed Akhtar, 66, a Pakistani taxi driver in Abu Dhabi, met Dr Hameed five years ago.

“I was suffering from the disease and was not aware. Now, Dr Hameed is taking care of my health,” said Mr Akhtar, who has been working in the capital for two decades.

“Driving is a stressful job and, worst of all, drivers follow unhealthy lifestyles and eating habits. Even if they come to know about the disease most of them don’t have the resources to afford medicines and injections,” he said.

According to International Diabetes Federation statistics, Pakistan has the 10th highest rate of diabetes in the world, with 6.6 million patients.

At the present rate of growth, the country could have the fourth highest rate in the world by 2030.

About 85,000 Pakistanis die of diabetes-related diseases each year.