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By RIYADH: MD RASOOLDEEN, ARAB NEWS STAFF
Crown Prince Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, approved an immediate supply of medicines to Sierra Leone, Health Minister Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah announced in Riyadh yesterday.
The minister said according to the directive, the Ministry of Health would send a consignment of 20 tons of medicines that would comprise 50 types of pharmaceuticals.
The dispatch will include tablets, capsules, injections, nasal and mouth sprays, body lotions, syrups, antibiotics and salt.
“This is a clear sign of the magnanimity of the crown prince, who spontaneously feels for the deserving Arabs and Muslims throughout the world,” the minister said, adding that such gestures portray the true Islamic teachings that advocate solidarity among Muslims.
“This is a great gesture which indicates the humanitarian sentiments of the crown prince, who really wanted to help people who are currently in need of medicines,” Dr. Sa’ad Ali Al-Garni, consultant of vascular surgery at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh, told Arab News yesterday.
Al-Garni, who had just returned from Sierra Leone, said the world Muslim community would definitely appreciate this generosity to help sick people. “The people are really in need of more medicines to lead a healthy life,” the consultant noted.
Al-Garni headed a medical team from Physicians Across Continents (PAC) comprising 30 medics and paramedics.
The team provided medical treatment free of charge to the poor and needy in Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone, and its surrounding five villages.
The team was composed of health professionals from Saudi Arabia, the United States, Russia, Sweden, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Malaysia.
Al-Garni said the team included blood vessel surgeons, general surgeons, pediatricians, gynecologists, anesthesiologists and dentists.
“We treated about 1,500 patients who included infants, children, men and women,” Al-Garni said, adding that the surgical team performed 120 hernia operations during a short span of 10 days.
Al-Garni said the PAC was founded in 2004 as a humanitarian organization operating under the auspices of the Muslim World League. It helps treat patients around the globe regardless of race, color, religion and country.
Charge d’Affaires at the Sierra Leone Embassy in Riyadh Eric B. Gamanga said the visit of the medics boosted President Koroma’s agenda for improving the domestic health sector.
In 2010 Sierra Leone had the fourth-highest child-mortality rate in the world — 174 deaths per 1,000 live births. In response, the small West African country introduced free health care for pregnant and breast-feeding women and children under five.
Britain provided $24 million in funding. The British government modestly described the free health-care system as a Sierra Leonean initiative that it is merely assisting.
On assumption of office in 2007, President Koroma listed health as one of his priority areas on his Agenda for Change. The president’s vision was accessible and affordable quality health care for all Sierra Leoneans, especially children under five, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
This is the second visit of PAC to Sierra Leone. In December 2009, the late Deputy Health Minister Mohamed Daudis Koroma was instrumental in extending an invitation to 28 PAC members who paid a weeklong official visit to Sierra Leone.
In a letter dated Dec. 10, 2009, addressed to the secretary-general of PAC, he requested doctors to provide an oxygen machine, drugs and other essential medical supplies for the general populace.
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