The weeklong exhibition conducted by Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) at the Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi, which commenced on February 22 is indeed an eye opener to all who take for granted the state-of-the art health facilities available to us at our beck and call.

By Anjana Sankar (Contributor)

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Published: Sun 29 Feb 2004, 2:21 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 12:37 AM

Titled A journey into the everyday lives of the victims of five neglected diseases and the medical teams caring for them, the 80 pictures showcased throw light on the inhuman and meagre conditions under which the MSF's volunteers work to provide the basic medical assistance for the people in the under developed and developing countries.

The exhibition, which is apart of the MSF's Access to Essential Medicines Campaign, aims to raise awareness among people about how millions of life is lost every year due to the lack of affordable and effective treatment for the neglected diseases.

According to MSF statistics, fifteen million people die yearly due to lack of medical assistance or the non availability of affordable treatment for diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis and chagas. Too often MSF volunteers are left without any treatment option when the only available medicines are archaic, ineffective or even toxic.

The western pharmaceutical companies totally neglect the manufacturing of such essential drugs, as they see no profitable market for the same. For example, the most commonly used drug for 'Kala-azar,' a sever variant of leishmaniasis was discovered more than half a century ago, and in certain regions, the parasite is becoming resistant to it. The production of a new promising drug, the antibiotic aminosidine, has been abandoned for the time being because no company has found its marketing potential worthwhile. In contrast, drug laboratories are busy developing innovative up market cures for non life-threatening ailments like baldness. And worst, there is a lack of initiative from the governments and other public bodies to allocate funds for the research for the development of new treatment options in the developing nations.

The mission statement of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases (DND) Working Group formed in 1999 reads as, "it is the responsibility of society to address this public health failure, and seek new and creative strategies to solve this problem.

"The exhibition aims to promote and encourage research in the field that will generate new and cost effective treatment for the infectious and parasitic diseases and to increase access to life-saving drugs in developing countries," said Tahar Hani, Communications Officer at the MSF's Abu Dhabi office.

"UAE is the first country in the Middle East where MSF is conducting its exhibition and we hope to spread the message to other countries in the Gulf too," added Tahar.

The exhibition, which closes today, also gives the public a chance to view a model MSF field clinic that is set up alongside the photo exhibition. These outpatient clinics that are used in the early stages of refugee camp installations, natural and man made disasters, and as a response to an outburst of epidemics are set up by ready-made kits which cater for 1000 people for a duration of one month. "Kits like these are specially designed by MSF to provide quick and effective response for emergency situations and we want to give an idea how MSF manages to work in the remote and unstable parts of the world saving millions of lives with the most basic amenities," explained Soha Abouchakra, MSF events coordinator.

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