; Hyderabad; August 23, 2005
Two ophthalmologists from Peshawar are at the L.V. Prasad Eye Hospital, Hyderabad, as part of a training programme sponsored by the Vision 2020 of the World Health Organisation. They are here to specialise in paediatric ophthalmology -- a specialisation needed to counter the alarming prevalence of childhood blindness in developing countries such as India and Pakistan.
"The incidence of childhood blindness is increasing in the subcontinent. We need to curb this," said Dr. Md. Younas Khan, one of the doctors who is on a short-term visit of three months. His colleague, Dr. Md. Naeem Khan, will be staying longer for a year.
These doctors treat patients not only from their country but also from Afghanistan. People also come to Peshawar for treatment of war-inflicted wounds and common ailments. "Both in Afghanistan and Peshawar, inter-family marriages are common. Hence, congenital diseases like blindness are highly prevalent. But no general ophthalmologist can identify this. We need to be a specialist and that is what we have come here to be," Dr. Younas said.
India is the best-suited country for their education as it has the same climatic condition and life style as in Pakistan. "If we studied in the U.K., we would not be able to identify with the cases there, as the conditions there are very different. But as we treat patients in India, we realise that the cases we get here are very similar to the ones back home. We learn more here," said Dr. Naeem. "Besides, the patients also do not treat us any different from the Indian doctors as we speak Hindi and Urdu just as them. We look like you people. We are very welcome here and we like it here too," he added.
Despite such an exchange of goodwill and affection, these doctors had to face lots of bureaucratic hurdles. Dr. Naeem's course is for one year. But he did not get a visa for more than four months. So, after every four months he has to return to Pakistan, make a fresh application and come back. Dr. Younas too only got a visa for exactly 90 days. His course duration is also of 90 days. This means, he has to skip some of his classes to fit in the travelling time.
Another disappointment for these doctors is that they cannot see any other part of India. They have visas only for Hyderabad.
The doctors had come as a team of four to undergo training. The other two members -an anaesthesiologist (who is also Dr. Naeem's wife) and a nurse, completed their training earlier this year and have gone back.