Islamic Relief Malaria Conference

May 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

It is easy to forget that people suffer and die unnecessarily from disease as well as from natural and man made disasters, though the latter make the headlines. It is even easier to believe, as many in this country do, that the disease will never impact their lives. Fortunately their are organizations, impelled by their faith, that address this issue. One of them is Islamic Relief.

Islamic Relief USA, one of the world’s foremost charities, held its second annual Malaria Conference this past Sunday in Anaheim, Ca. Titled: Bite the Bug, the event included workshops with well known and informative speakers and an end of Conference dinner.

The Conference was both educational and a call to action. The theme of the Conference was: Educate, Communicate and Eradicate.

The event began with a welcome by Mohammed Mertaban. He told the audience that Malaria is a scourge that effects the entire world. Though its exact time of origin remains unknown, it has impacted mankind since the beginning of history. Children constitute a disproportionate number of Malaria’s victims.

Workshops were: Malaria: Beyond A Disease; Malaria Firsthand: Effect on Community and Family, and Eradicate Malaria: As little as $10 can Save A Life.

Dr. Faisal Qazi, a neurologist, began his address by thanking Islamic Relief for two reasons: first for embracing the cause of eradicating Malaria, and second, for recognizing the global impact. He said that one must not only address the epidemiological aspects of the disease – morbidity and mortality – but the economic and social burden the disease imposes.

He cited imperatives from the Holy Quran – tools in any battle fought by Muslims: wisdom, compassion, justice and excellence.

Imam Siraj Wahaj, one of the most revered Islamic figures today, cited some of the many instances of compassion on the part of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). “Let us have the same compassion as our Prophet (s).”

He asked the audience to study American history, particularly African American history. Imam Wahaj cited Medgar Evers, an African American killed in the early 1960’s for speaking out against the policy of the South which kept his people from voting.

With the Muslim vote “You have to power to do something about government”, he continued. Muslims have a right to guide this country and to demand more money for Malaria relief.
“I have learned so much about Malaria and its effects” said one young woman toward the end of the workshop.

Malaria, while it is a global concern, particularly affects people in Central and South America; Southeast Asia; Africa, and the Eastern Mediterranean. Malaria can be cured, and it can be prevented. It is a blood disease caused by the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. It only takes one bite to cause infection and probable, in the absence of treatment, death.

The United Nations has estimated that Malaria could be eradicated by 2015 with the proper international effort. Islamic relief would like to see that happen sooner.

Islamic Relief has offices around the world and works not only with people afflicted with disease but also with people who are the victims of natural and man made disasters. Islamic Relief partners with many other charities both international and local and has NGO status with the United Nations.. The group serves all people regardless of their nationality, race or religion. Islamic Relief has been in Haiti in the earthquake’s aftermath; Pakistan after the earthquake and floods; Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina; Libya during the current crisis; Republic of the Congo in the aftermath of the recent renewed decades old civil war, and Darfur with its many internally displaced people. The foregoing are but a small portion of the places and times where the presence of Islamic Relief has made and continues to make a difference in saving lives and improving the quality of existence.

To access Islamic Relief’s web site and find more about the organization, please visit: www.islamicreliefusa.org.  To learn more about Malaria and to donate to that cause or the numerous others on the web site, please follow the appropriate links.

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A Crisis of Health and Minds

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

blowing_cement Ever since the H1N1 virus reared its ugly head this past summer it has jumped to the top of the list of diseases most deadly to humans. However, an older and wiser disease is still infecting many people across the world with the same deadly consequences. Tuberculosis (TB), a lethal lung infection, is as contagious as the H1N1 virus and spreads easily from person to person. For this reason alone, it is vital for the person infected with TB to be kept away from other people and treated in a hospital.

Unfortunately, in some regions of the world, people with TB are treated as if they have leprosy. They are often shunned by their society and isolated because people are afraid of contracting the disease. Nowhere is this more evident than in Egypt where having TB is often a death sentence for the person afflicted with it. According to the Egyptian government 21 out of every 1,000 Egyptians are infected with TB. However, only 1 in 10 cases becomes active while the remaining stay dormant. Doctors have approximated the number of TB cases in Egypt to be around 17,000. However, independent analysts believe that the number of TB cases in Egypt is a lot larger and could pose even a greater health epidemic than the pandemic flu.

Like most societies, it is the poorest and weakest members of a community that often bear the brunt of disease. In Egypt, slum-dwellers and cement workers are the most prone. In the case of the latter, Scientists believe that years of breathing the talcum-like powdery cement, which often causes Silicosis or lung disease, makes a person 30 more times likely to develop full-blown TB. However, there is no tangible evidence to support that claim besides the fact that cement workers are increasingly developing TB in droves. “TB has come to pose a real danger to the people of this country. The problem is that poor Egyptians living in the country’s slums are more prone to it,” revealed Essam al-Moghazy, chief of the National Tuberculosis Control Program, in a recent interview.

Once infected, company protocol often dictates that cement workers infected with TB are fired from their jobs. With most only earning a meager living in the first place, a stay in the hospital for treatment is out of the question. And the company the workers labor for day in and day out simply washes their hands of the sick employee without even offering insurance or other assistance. As a result, the workers have no recourse but to turn towards their home where it is common for them to spread the disease to their families. Cement workers are just one class of workers out of thousands whose jobs are dissolved once the employee contracts TB.

The Egyptian government has high hopes of eradicating TB by the year 2050 as it is the third leading cause of death amongst Egyptians, behind Bilharzia and Hepatitis C. In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report stating that Egypt had been successful in managing the disease with case detection averaging 72% and successful treatment registering at 87%, which is 2% higher than the WHO’s global objectives.

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Swine Flu Explained, for kids

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

ibn tufail 8-17-09

Novel Influenza A (H1N1) virus (also referred to as “pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus” or “swine flu”) is a type of influenza (flu) virus that causes respiratory disease that can spread between people. Most people infected with this virus in the United States have had mild disease, but some have had more severe illness. On June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the worldwide pandemic alert level to Phase 6 in response to the ongoing global spread of the novel influenza A (H1N1) virus. Since the WHO declaration of a pandemic, the new H1N1 virus has continued to spread, with the number of countries reporting cases of novel H1N1 nearly doubling. The Southern Hemisphere’s regular influenza season has begun and countries there are reporting that the new H1N1 virus is spreading and causing illness along with regular seasonal influenza viruses. In the United States, significant novel H1N1 illness has continued into the summer, with localized and in some cases intense outbreaks occurring.

Symptoms: The symptoms of novel influenza A (H1N1) virus in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with novel influenza A (H1N1) virus. If you are sick or think you have novel influenza A (H1N1) virus infection, please contact your healthcare provider.

* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

* Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

* Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

* Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

* Stay home if you are sick for 7 days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer. This is to keep from infecting others and spreading the disease.

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Interview with Two Blind Muslim Pakistani Students, Imran Ahmed, Hina Altaf…

June 18, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

By Adil James, MMNS

DSC_0003r Speaking on the phone with Imran Ahmed, there is no way that a person could know that he is disabled, he has the same accent one would expect, and the same manners, but perhaps there is a gentleness to him, a mercy that has come to his heart from his illness. 

Imran Ahmed and Hina Altaf are brother and sister, although perhaps you might not know it from their names.  He is named after one side of the family, she after another.  And yet although they do not share a surname they share an unfortunate disease which has caused their blindness.

“We both have been blind since birth,” Imran explains, “we both have the same disease, none of our other family members have it–we both have light sections, light and dark, and we can tell how intense light is.  But we can’t see colors or shapes.  The disease is hereditary…  It is a very rare disease, and there are 2 cases every five years.” 

The two are studying at Carroll University in Waukesha Wisconsin, close to Milwaukee. He is 24, she is 25, and they hope to graduate next year.

“We were in Pakistan,” he explains, “my father’s cousin lived in Waukesha, and he suggested Carroll College–we applied and were accepted.”  After they found sponsors to help them, they came.

Despite their studies, they maintain contact with the Muslim community although such contact is difficult since they have to depend on others to bring them to and from the mosque, and since the Muslim community at their school is extremely small.

Hina - Comp 1 Imran explains, “Unfortunately it’s a very very small college, we are the only two Muslim students from Pakistan—there is another student that she lives up campus, we don’t have any Muslim student associations on campus.”

Although there are few Muslims, several people have been very helpful to the brother and sister.

“For at least one year into our stay, we didn’t know anybody,” says Imran.  “But one of our American friends brought us to the Islamic Center in Milwaukee,”  35 minutes away from campus.

Between the US and Pakistan, Imran explains, “there is a tremendous difference… in Pakistan, people don’t understand the meaning of a white cane–travel is difficult and dangerous.  There are potholes, there is always construction on the roads.  That hinders a lot of blind people from travelling.  The layout of roads is different.  Here there is always a curb so you know you are getting close–here there is a strategy to cross roads… things are a little better planned out here.  People have been more accepting here.  Even if people are reluctant to give you an opportunity, but there is always a hope that you will have an opportunity.  A lot of people of people appreciate and give you the opportunity to do things.”

Imran has optimism about his future–he and his sister both intend to build lives for themselves, each of them intends to work and marry as circumstances permit.
The difficulties they face, of course, make a mockery of the difficulties that many Muslims and others encounter–in order to study they must either find books in braille or find audio versions of their books–something which was nearly impossible in Pakistan.

Imran explains that he hopes to find a job in tech support or web design—”if possible, I would like to eventually move on to adaptive access technology, teach blind people, or sighted people how to use adaptive technology.”

And they would like to improve conditions in Pakistan for people who are not sighted.

“We want to start a Braille library, in Urdu,” and he wants to help to create OCR software for reading into Urdu as well.

To contact Imran: iahmed@carrollu.edu, or 262-305-9709.

Diabetes Spirals Out of Control in Gulf

March 12, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS

mcdonalds The unprecedented growth of diabetes around the world has raised red flags in the medical community, which is seeing a global spike in the disease in both the young and old alike. Nowhere is this more evident than in Gulf nations where the UAE is rated as 2nd in the world for the most diabetics per capita, 27% of the population is diabetic with the same percentage at risk for developing the disease. Other Gulf nations like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are also fighting an uphill battle against the illness with more and more of their residents succumbing to a similar fate as their tiny Gulf neighbor.

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic illnesses in the world. It happens when the body stops producing insulin or when the body still produces insulin but is unable to respond to it. The most common treatment is the external administration of insulin through injection. However, many cases of diabetes in the Gulf go undetected until severe signs of the disease become manifest. Unlike most western nations, who are increasing budgetary expenditures to meet the influx of chronic disease within their borders, Gulf nations spent less than 4% of the GDP on the health sector last year that is in sharp contrast with the US who spent more than 11% of its GDP.

Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of diabetes is the requirement, for some patients, to have a limb or extremity amputated. Diabetes restricts the amount of blood that flows throughout the body thus damaging nerves and often causing gangrene to set in. The only way to save the patient’s life is to amputate and even then it is estimated that the patient will only have 5 more years to live. In Saudi Arabia, where 25% of the population is diabetic, more than 90 foot amputations are carried out each month, which roughly translates into 3 amputations per day.

The increased revenue from years of oil surpluses and a life of ease has created a perfect storm that has swept through the Middle East with a ferocity that has taken many by surprise. With more money in the family budget, many families eat out a few times a week. And the choice of restaurant is not always the healthiest. Fast food restaurants, junk food and fizzy carbonated drinks have for years crept into the hearts of Gulf denizens who often prefer a McDonald’s Big Mac to traditional fare. Add to that the lifestyle in the Gulf, which turns lounging around into a sport and makes ‘exercise’ a dirty word.  Children are the most at risk for developing diabetes before they even reach puberty due to obesity, a decrease in physical activity and an increase in sedentary activities such as surfing the Internet or playing video games.

Diabetes is called the ‘silent killer’ for a reason as many people either don’t know they have it or ignore the treatment to care for it. Eating healthfully and engaging in exercise is often pushed to the wayside in favor of more pressing issues, like earning a living or caring for a family. According to the International Diabetes Fund, there are more than 250 million known cases of diabetes in the world. That figure is set to exponentially rise to 380 million in the next 15 years. And unless the governments of the Gulf take preventative measures now, the Middle East nations will make up a bulk of those cases. For this reason, the UAE based Harvard Medical School Dubai Center (HMSDC) has launched an initiative in cooperation with His Highness Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Academic Medical Center to make 2009 the year to combat diabetes in the kingdom, educate the public and help doctors to better treat the disease.

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