Unsung blood disorder people to be honoured at Abu Dhabi awards

Outstanding efforts in the fight against the blood disorder thalassaemia - and the lack of knowledge about it - are being recognised in a new international award.

The awards were launched after a personal directive by Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // Outstanding efforts in the fight against the blood disorder thalassaemia - and the lack of knowledge about it - are being recognised in a new international award.
The winners of the Sheikh Sultan International Thalassaemia Award were announced yesterday to thank those, local and international, who have helped to raise awareness of a disease that is prevalent in the region
"I am pleased to recognise the unsung heroes of thalassaemia," said Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, chairman of the award's board of trustees, at his Abu Dhabi palace yesterday as the winners were revealed.
The awards, launched after a personal directive by Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa, adviser to the President, recognised winners in 14 national and six international categories, and a Personality of the Year Award.
Personality of the Year was won by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, for establishing the Hamdan bin Rashid Awards for Medical Sciences, which has helped to enrich research into thalassaemia.
The announcement of the winners comes as Abu Dhabi gears up to host an international congress next month to highlight the physical, social and economical effects of the disease.
The Thalassaemia International Federation World Congress will be held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre between October 20 and 23, and aims to address the high prevalence of thalassaemia and blood disorders in the Middle East and around the world.
It is estimated that 7 per cent of the world's population are carriers of genes that may cause disorders of haemoglobin. About 500,000 children are born every year worldwide with severe inherited blood disorders, 30 per cent of whom have thalassaemia, the foundation said.
Thalassaemia affects the production of haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells.
Without treatment, it causes severe anaemia and death.
There are different types of the disorder, which vary from a mild condition with no symptoms to a serious or life-threatening condition. Some will carry the gene but will never show any symptoms.
"Thalassaemia is of significant concern in the Middle East due to a rapid increase in the number of cases over the past few years," said Sheikh Zayed, adding about one in 12 people in the UAE are estimated to be carriers of the disease.
"International conferences serve as a great opportunity to build up new and strengthen existing relations and collaborations."
More than 100 experts in the field will speak at the three-day biennial conference, which the foundation has held since the late 1980s.
"Thalassaemia is one of the most common inherited blood disorders known to mankind," said Panos Englezos, the foundation's chairman.
"With more than 490 million thalassaemia carriers in the world, in the absence of a comprehensive thalassaemia prevention programme, children with thalassaemia disease will continue to be born straining the medical, social and economic resources of many nations."
Mr Englezos, who highlighted the role of the UAE in tackling thalassaemia as being an "exemplary model", said the congress aimed to provide information to parents and patients, and share knowledge between medical specialists on how best to manage blood disorders.
Abu Dhabi was chosen as the host of the 13th conference because of the work of the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Humanitarian and Scientific Foundation, he said.
"This event started a few decades ago as an educational activity providing basic knowledge and information on the prevention and treatment of these disorders, which are in the present day subject to dramatic medical and scientific advances.
"Through the international scientific experts and patient-advisory panels, this event offers the latest news on ongoing and future research, and provides guidance and recommendations on the best practices used to manage and prevent these disorders.
"Step by step this impressive pro-gress greatly contributed since the 1980s to the remarkable transition of this fatal childhood disease to a chronic one, providing good to excellent quality of life for the patients while extending their lifespan."
Mr Englezos said that while countries in the eastern Mediterranean had a high occurrence of haemoglobin disorders, the region has made rapid progress in raising awareness.
The congress will dedicate 40 sessions to thalassaemia, haemoglobinopathies and the effects of blood disorders. More than 2,000 people are expected to attend.
Winners of the Sheikh Sultan International Thalassaemia Award will be given a cash prize and honoured in an official awards ceremony on the first day of the conference.