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Making History Together: Treating Retinoblastoma in Afghanistan Through the New Silk Road Project

Treating Retinoblastoma in Afghanistan
History is not just something we read about in books; it is made every day by those who are brave enough to make significant changes. That is what we’re hoping to do with the New Silk Road.

In Afghanistan, there are approximately 100 new cases of retinoblastoma diagnosed every year. A type of eye cancer that primarily affects young children, recent advances have made retinoblastoma highly treatable when diagnosed and handled properly, with a very high chance of saving both the patient’s eyesight and life. This, however, is hard to achieve in Afghanistan.

While Afghan children can seek help in a handful of National Organization for Ophthalmic Rehabilitation (NOOR) centers across the country, their ability to help is often limited.

For more than 1,500 years, the original Silk Road contributed to the exchange of goods and ideas among diverse cultures. And now, centuries after being closed, we have a new, medical Silk Road.

Committed to providing ‘Hope Without Boundaries,’ Sheba partnered with doctors from Afghanistan and Pakistan to create the new Silk Road project aimed at providing Afghan children with life-saving care.

The project is logistically, financially, and clinically supported by Sheba, and was formed thanks to the efforts of senior ophthalmologist Prof. Ido Didi Fabian and ophthalmology resident Dr. Mattan Arazi.

According to Prof. Fabian. “Through international collaboration, telemedicine consultation, geographic coordination, and charitable contributions, the Retinoblastoma Silk Road Program aims to significantly reduce child mortality rates caused by this fatal cancer. This joint endeavor aligns with WHO (World Health Organization) goals, and aims to become a model referral pathway for other countries, especially in underserved nations and communities.” 

So far, 10 Afghan children suffering from retinoblastoma have been brought for treatment at the Lahore Children’s Hospital in Pakistan as part of the program, and many more will soon be treated.

It is a privilege to help people in need across the globe, and we look forward to continuing to develop and expand the project.

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