ALMOST two decades ago Yasser Haba was forced to flee his home country of Iraq.
Now the consultant clinical oncologist at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, is back there helping to set up a cancer centre in a bid to improve survival rates.
The 40-year-old joins three other doctors – one from the UK and two from the USA – who are visiting the country this week.
He said: ‘I’m originally from Iraq and fled from the country when I was 23 years old.
‘I started my medical training in Iraq, but my family was forced to flee.
‘I still remember the day my dad came home and told me to prepare my bags because we would be leaving in the next two hours.
‘I never went back to my home country until after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
‘But when I went to visit I saw cancer care was very limited and decided I wanted to help improve the cancer services in the country.
‘I got in touch with medical professionals in Iraq and have been working very closely with them.’
Dr Haba, who has worked at QA for four years, is an advisor to the Iraqi minister of health for cancer services and a member of the Iraq Cancer Board.
He is part of the Al Hussain Shrine Foundation, which aims to build the Karbala Cancer Centre by November next year.
This week Dr Haba is in Iraq with other project members, finalising the plans so building work can begin.
The centre will be in the city of Karbala, 60 miles south of Baghdad.
It will be a place for people suffering with the disease to get treatment and counselling, including two patient wards delivering radio and chemotherapy and a training facility, to improve the care provided.
‘Cancer incidents are rising, but the statistics are very primitive,’ added Dr Haba.
‘On average there are around 60,000 new cases a year in the country.
‘Part of my work is to develop strategies in how to provide the care in the most effective way.
‘This week we will be reviewing and inspecting the final building plans.’
Dr Haba is due to fly out again in December, along with QA’s Dr Peter Robinson, who will be a technical director for the project.
‘I wanted to do this with everything I had learnt over here,’ added Dr Haba.
‘To go over is hard work, but I want to give something back so I do not mind.
‘It is a war-torn country and I don’t have any family left there.
‘I like to do it as voluntary work and it makes me feel good about myself.’