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Doctors from Israel, Pakistan collaborate to save Afghan children in a medical ‘Silk Road’

Cooperation takes place despite lack of diplomatic relations between countries

Prof. Ido Didi Fabian performing surgery on a retinoblastoma patient. (Photo courtesy of Sheba Medical Center)

Israeli doctors from the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv have partnered with doctors in Pakistan to form the Retinoblastoma Silk Road Project in order to treat Afghani children.

The project started a little over one year ago despite a lack of diplomatic relations between the countries.

Retinoblastoma (Rb) is a form of eye cancer that can be deadly if not treated. It can also lead to the loss of eyesight, however, with early detection, the condition is often curable in most developed countries.

In less-developed countries, a lack of sufficient medical care can lead to survival rates below 50%.

The war-torn country of Afghanistan has a poorly-developed healthcare system, leaving few treatment options for the almost 100 cases of Rb discovered there each year.

Ophthalmologists from Sheba Medical Center partnered with doctors from the Afghani International Assistance Mission (IAM), the National Organization for Ophthalmic Rehabilitation (NOOR) and Pakistani Retinoblastoma Centers of Excellence to perform the treatments for the Afghani children in Pakistan.

Ocular oncologist Dr. Ido Fabian described the project:

“Through international collaboration, telemedicine consultation, geographic coordination and charitable contributions, the Retinoblastoma Silk Road Project aims to significantly reduce child mortality rates caused by this fatal cancer.”

When children with Rb are identified by NOOR, they are registered for the program, with Afghani team members securing travel permits for the child and parents for treatment in Pakistan.

The Retinoblastoma Silk Road Project brings children with eye cancer out of Afghanistan to Pakistan for treatment. (Photo courtesy of Sheba Medical Center)

The children stay in temporary houses throughout the length of the treatment, with doctors in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Israel cooperating on treatment decisions.

The Pakistani government pays for the treatment costs, while the Retinoblastoma Silk Road program pays for the family and child’s stay in Lahore for as long as the treatment takes.

So far, 10 Afghani children have been treated through the program.

Prof. Fabian said the program also provides the patient with follow-up treatments and examinations.

The project receives financial and logistical support from Sheba Global, the international division of Sheba Medical Center.

Sheba Medical Center is one of Israel’s premier medical facilities and has been ranked on a list of the World’s Best Hospitals by Newsweek for five years in a row.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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