Dr. Tanveer Zubairi

Dr. Tanveer Zubairi

Dear Sir/Madam

Assalamu alikum WRWB

Hope you are in the best of your health and spirits.
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Obstetric fistula or vesico-vaginal fistula is a treatable tragedy and a frightening disease in which due to obstructed labour and childbirth complications a women develops incontinence of urine and sometimes feces, she becomes a constant source of infection and is surrounded in bad smell. As a result these women are driven out of their homes, divorced or subjected to a social boycott. Eventually being an outcast, they become a burden on the family and community and this illness has its social and psychiatric repercussions and a gloomy outcome. It is a disease of poverty, ignorance and lack of education. The patients usually tend to conceal their illness and most of them report for a medical advice when nothing much can be done at a primary care level. Due to lack of resources the patients fail to seek medical advice in larger cities with adequate surgical facilities and support, hence majority of them end up in leading a life like a leper. Reliable data on obstetric fistula are hard to come by because of the stigma associated with the condition.


Describing it as the most devastating of all pregnancy related disabilities, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says obstetric fistula affects an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 women around the world every year and is particularly common in sub-Saharan Africa, where populations face challenges to obtaining quality health care.


Fistula repair and a permanent solution is a difficult surgical procedure and due to poor follow up and recurrence of infection and other underlying reasons, the rate of recurrence is rather high. It is time consuming and a low priority in terms of financial returns for the surgeons, hence the patients face added hardship when such complication arise and they are put at the end of a never ending que of waiting list.


FIMA (Federation of Islamic Medical Associations) doctors felt the intensity of plight of victims of obstetric fistula while working in the remote area of Darfur-Sudan in 2007 and 2008. In 2009 FIMA formally started the Save-Dignity project headed by Prof. Dr. Iqbal Khan (presently Vice Chancellor of al Shifa University, Islamabad). The FIMA team made initial surveys and assessment with the help of SIMA (Sudanese IMA) and save dignity camps were held subsequently in Darfur and Khartoum. A camp was held in Afghanistan in 2014. IMA Nigeria also conducted the Fistula camps in July 2016 in conjunction with the 33rd FIMA council meeting in Abuja, Nigeria and camps were held in the Niger state. Her highness Lady Aisha Buhari, the first lady of Nigeria acted as the patron to these camps.


A group of urologists, surgeons and anesthesiologists from UK, South Africa and Australia sat early this year and planned to continue and further augment the past experience in this particular area of fistula repair in target areas which predominantly includes poor Muslim communities and under developed African countries. Dr. Afzal Kahloon, a dynamic Muslim urologist from Australia acted as the key person to organize a fistula repair camp. The Tanga region in Tanzania was selected and Dr. Mwimbe Juma, President of Sunshine Muslim Volunteers offered to act as the local coordinator. It took long to make the essential arrangements including registration of the foreign doctors, ground facilities, patient registration, boarding, travel and lodging arrangements etc. A sum of


US $ 35000 was required and the project had already exhausted its reserves in the previous camps and Dr Afzal had to start from a dime in his hand; Alhamdolillah the finances were generated in the stipulated period, rather they exceeded the pledged amount which reflects the high spirits of the team members.


The journey till end was not uneventful, it had difficult times, depressing moments and of course heights of personal and professional satisfaction and a feeling of gratitude as if something positive was contributed towards alleviation of the misery of destitute. This endeavor was solely focused to seek the pleasure of Allah almighty and to serve the people in suffering and an attempt to reduce the pain of those in agony. As per Marryum Kahlon, the young energetic liaison officer of the camp: This camp has certainly been an eye opener for us all. The under resourced conditions doctors work under, the extreme poverty patients face and the inaccessibility of areas of need combine to make a difficult working environment. We have been very fortunate to make a small impact on the community as a whole and a very large impact in the lives of individual patients.


We are looking forward to reviewing our efforts once back on home soil and evaluating how we can best utilise our resources, both time and money, in the future to make an even greater impact.


According to a recent statement issued by the office of UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon there are 2 million sufferers of Obstetrical fistula presently worldwide. UNFPA has supported more than 70,000 fistula repair surgeries for women and girls in need, and Campaign partners have enabled many more to receive treatment. As we talk about ending polio, HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation and so many other forms of suffering, so must we commit to stepping up our efforts to end fistula, once and for all. This means heeding the call of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to leave no one behind, especially those most neglected, invisible and powerless, including the women and girls living with fistula. May Allah SWT accept the little contribution made by our doctors in Sudan, Afghanistan, Nigeria and now in Tanzania; FIMA pledge to continue its projects including FIMA Save Vision, Save Smile and Save Dignity. FIMA council has approved the FIMA Save Heart project in its 33rd Council Meeting held in Abuja, Nigeria.


Dr. Tanveer Zubairi
President, FIMA

Last week in Abuja, IMA of Nigeria hosted the 33rd Federation of Islamic Medical Associations (FIMA) International Conference, which was simultaneously holding its 17th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference. The FIMA Conference had as its theme “Eradication of Communicable Diseases: West African and Nigerian Experience” considering the recent major outbreaks of Ebola in West Africa, Lassa Fever in Nigeria, and now the much-feared Zika across the Atlantic in Latin America.


The conference brought together about international Muslim health professionals from FIMA member countries such as Pakistan, Indonesia, Palestine, Malaysia, Bangladesh, North America, Turkey, Uganda, Algeria, Niger Republic, Lebanon, South Africa, Sudan and more than 500 delegates from the host, Nigeria, led by its President, Dr. Salisu Isma'il of Usmanu Danfodio University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto.


During the scientific sessions, a total of 28 papers were presented organized while two professional seminars were organized by the Islamic Hospital Consortium (IHC) and 'Consortium of Islamic Medical Colleges' (CIMCO). Furthermore, a 2-day Students' Leadership Training Programme was organized for students of Nigerian health institutions.


FIMA was formed in 1981 with objectives such as to foster the unity and welfare of Muslim medical and healthcare professionals all over the world; to promote Islamic medical activities including health services, education and research through cooperation and coordination among member organizations; to promote the understanding and the application of Islamic principles in the field of medicine; and to mobilize professional and economic resources in order to provide medical care and relief to affected areas and communities, among others. The hosting organization, IMAN, was founded in 1989 by a group of Nigerian health professionals with similar objectives to FIMA, to wit, to bring into closer union all Nigerian Muslim healthcare professionals (doctors, pharmacists, lab technicians, health administrators, etc.) and to render services to humanity with the fear of Allah (exalted be His Name) in mind. Working under the motto “Health is a Priceless Treasure”, IMAN also aims to create unity among Muslim medical/health professionals in Nigeria; and to enhance better understanding of healthcare within the framework of Islam, among others.


Highlight of the Conference was the Opening Address by Sultan of Sokoto Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar, who is the Grand Patron of IMAN. The Sultan called on Muslim health all their duties only for the sake of Allah and the expected divine rewards, and not for worldly gain. He further called on them to avoid unnecessary strikes, as strikes only succeed in alienating health professionals from the people, their patients. He added that the health and well being of the society should be paramount in all health professionals do, and that would only be possible if they are dedicated to their work.


In a Communique issued at the end of the Conference signed by IMAN President Dr. Isma'il and Secretary Dr. Muhammad Audi, participants observed that the problem of communicable diseases remains a significant challenge in the West African sub-region, and much needs to be done to ensure the battle with Ebola and Lassa Fever is completely won. This situation is also confounded by the many unmet needs of victims of armed conflicts such as inadequate health care, poor nutrition and low health literacy. Similarly, there is poor understanding, limited research and misapplication of Islamic Prophetic medicine, while there is poor adherence of healthcare professionals to Islamic principles toward the care of Muslim patients.


In response to the Sultan's admonitions, the participants also observed that there is persisting industrial disharmony in the health sector, and that, according to them, is quite worrisome. One other observation was the poor funding of the country's health insurance scheme which has contributed to the consistent decrease in accessing qualitative healthcare services. Participants also lamented the deliberate inadequate acknowledgment of the contributions made to modern medicine by founding Muslim scholars especially in Western medical President FIMA discourse.


The Conference therefore recommended that healthcare professionals and governments in Nigeria and West Africa Sub-region should intensify efforts toward eradication of communicable diseases particularly immunization preventable diseases like polio; it also urged the government to provide the much-needed medical and relief materials to improve the living conditions of victims of armed conflicts, especially the Internally Displaced Persons all over the country; and that Muslim healthcare providers should equip themselves with the necessary skills and knowledge of Tibb Nabawi (Prophetic Medicine) to bridge the gap in its understanding and application


Further, participants recommended that as it is the responsibility of every healthcare provider to preserve the faith, life, intellect, lineage and wealth of their patients which are all encompassed in the purpose and guidelines of the Islamic Shariah, Muslim health care professionals should to continue to serve as role models by fostering harmony and promoting the spirit of teamwork and positive communication in the health sector; and that government should make health a fundamental human right and enforce this right by providing universal health insurance to all citizens with adequate funding of healthcare.


The conference enjoined the global community to give due recognition to all the neglected Muslim scholars who were some of the founding fathers of modern medicine; and that there should be improvement in the awareness of Islamic injunctions on medicine and care by all Muslim health professionals; and finally that government and all professionals to do stakeholders should intensify effort to provide qualitative treatment to people with addiction problems but also to prevent others from imbibing this habit and create a purposeful leadership forum for constant orientation of undergraduate health students in the areas of leadership and ethics.


Elsewhere, the Conference was informed of current IMAN activities to include establishment of clinics and hospitals; supporting indigent patients morally and financially; visitation to patients on sickbeds; rendering free medical services to prison inmates; medical caravans to rural communities; rendering subsidized health services to the poor and the needy through collaboration with other Islamic organizations; provision of relief materials to the needy; and bathing, shrouding and burial of unclaimed corpses in hospitals.


Other major and significant interventions by FIMA and IMAN include free surgeries for blindness (cataract surgery) which they call Save Vision; free surgeries for patients with vesico-vaginal fistula (VVF) which they call Save Dignity; and free surgeries for children with cleft lips and palate, which they call Save Smile.


International delegates expressed surprise at the beauty and tranquility of Abuja, as they were taken on mini-tours around the FCT and neighboring Niger State.


Dr. Tanveer Zubairi
President, FIMA