Dubai Ruler Launches Anti-blindness Drive

by VR Sreeraman on Sep 4 2008 12:03 PM

The ruler of the booming Gulf emirate of Dubai announced on Wednesday he would fund the treatment of one million people risking blindness.

"Noor Dubai" (Arabic for 'Light of Dubai') aims to "deliver preventive eye care to over one million people as part of its drive to realise its vision of a world free from curable forms of blindness," Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed al-Maktoum said in a speech read on his behalf at the launch of his initiative.

Sheikh Mohammad, who is also vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is part, did not put a price tag on his drive, announced on the third day of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan which is marked by a surge of charity in the oil-rich Gulf region.

But unlike a charity launched during Ramadan last year which raised funds to educate millions of children, the new effort will be bankrolled by Dubai's ruler, who was estimated by Forbes magazine in August to be worth 18 billion dollars.

"In addition to the UAE, Noor Dubai will reach out to people in ... Iraq, Afghanistan, Mali, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Jordan and Palestine," a statement released during the launch said.

The initiative "aims to help the World Health Organisation and International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness in achieving their goals outlined in Vision 2020: the Right to Sight," the statement said.

It will help people suffering from three major eye diseases -- cataract, which is the leading cause of blindness in the world affecting 18 million people representing 48 percent of the total number of blind people; strabismus that affects over five percent of children worldwide; and corneal opacities which is responsible for the blindness of 4.9 million people.