The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) is supporting the UAE’s first nationwide celebration of World Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Day on 30th May.
World MS Day is the global MS movement’s day of action to raise awareness of multiple sclerosis, encourage understanding and support and connect more than 2.8 million people worldwide living with the disease.
Taking place annually on 30th May, World MS Day provides a platform to shed light on the challenges faced by people with MS, while fostering a sense of community, support, and hope.
This year, NMSS is spearheading the celebration of World MS Day in the UAE with activities and programmes for people living with MS throughout the month of May leading up to the day. The month has featured a series of activities designed to raise awareness, increase knowledge, and promote understanding for individuals living with MS.
Dr. Fatima Al Kaabi, Vice Chair of the National MS Society Board of Trustees and Executive Director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Programme at the Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Centre (ADSCC), said, “We are thrilled to celebrate World MS Day in the UAE for the very first time. This day serves as a powerful reminder of our collective responsibility to support individuals affected by MS, and to strive for a world where their needs are met and their voices are heard. Commencing the month-long efforts with our MS Circles roadshow around the Emirates, we are taking a proactive step towards understanding the challenges faced by those living with MS and identifying gaps they face in accessing services and support. By listening to their stories, we can develop targeted solutions and advocate for change that truly addresses their needs.”
From 1-9 May, the NMSS hosted a series of MS Circles – one in each Emirate – titled “Connections”, in alignment with this year’s World MS Day of the same theme. Following discussions with community members and analysis of gaps in services, NMSS launched two new programmes MS Strong and New to MS. The former being a scalable health and wellness initiative to help people with MS develop an achievable fitness regimen and the latter being an online series of seminars for those who have recently been diagnosed to gain access to some of the leading medical experts on MS based in the UAE.
NMSS is launching a nationwide campaign to foster understanding and challenge perceptions; this includes the launch of a video campaign, community engagement through mall pop-ups and an interactive installation, The Cube, which will be featured around the Emirates. The video takes viewers on a journey through captivating storytelling in the voices of people with MS and stunning visuals. From engaging in adventurous hobbies to enjoying the peaceful sounds of birds, the campaign paints a vivid picture of people with MS living life to the fullest. By sharing their stories, the video demonstrates that a diagnosis of MS does not define one’s potential for a fulfilling life. The video culminates with the powerful inclusion of the society’s slogan, Multiple Stories; United as One, leaving a lasting impression on viewers.
NMSS partnered with malls around the UAE to bring pop-ups which commence in Abu Dhabi followed by Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Dubai, RAK and UAQ. The primary goal of the pop-up initiative is to dispel myths and misconceptions surrounding MS, while promoting understanding and empathy. Friendly and knowledgeable staff were on hand to guide visitors through the various engaging activities; answering questions and sharing information on MS.
Coupled with the mall presence, the NMSS took a creative approach to driving national awareness, through an orange object referred to as ‘The Cube’ circulating around the UAE. It started a country-wide roadshow at the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi and will make its way to every Emirate into June. Designed to symbolise the invisible symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis and shed light on the daily challenges faced by individuals living with the disease, The Cube represents the society’s vision of a world free of MS. It will be thoughtfully repurposed after the roaming installation concludes.
Extending beyond the national celebrations, the day also saw the signing of a new collaboration agreement between NMSS and Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF) based in London, UK. The CEO of MSIF, Peer Baneke, attended a virtual signing event with Dr. Fatima Al Kaabi and discussed areas of collaboration outlined in the agreements and progress towards their shared vision of a future without MS. This includes commitment to work together to (1) improve access to effective disease modifying treatments and high-quality care in the UAE and MENA region, (2) collaborate on global advocacy priorities, including the need to improve access to MS treatments in low and middle income settings, (3) work together to contribute to a better understanding of MS in the MENA region, including trends in the prevalence and incidence of the disease and by encouraging better collection and sharing of data across the region.
“It is fantastic to see with what energy, skill and care the National MS Society UAE has been created, with the needs of all people affected by MS living in the UAE at its heart. We very much look forward to our future collaborations. I have no doubt that the National MS Society will be a force for good for people affected by MS in the UAE and the wider region and wish the Society much success during this World MS Day and with all its efforts in years to come,” said Peer Baneke, CEO – Multiple Sclerosis International Federation.
Dr. Fatima Al Kaabi added, “MSIF and the UAE MS Society will partner together to advocate for better access to diverse and affordable treatments for MS in the UAE, regionally and globally, with the UAE MS Society serving as a key new advocacy voice in the MENA region. MSIF will draw on their decades of experience to provide advice and expertise to the UAE MS Society in its efforts to serve the local MS community. Together these collaborations reflect the UAE MS Society’s first efforts to expand its partnerships with well-respected international MS organizations, which will bring medical, advocacy and operational expertise to the newly formed society in the UAE.”
Most recently, the UAE MS Society collaborated with MSIF to support their application to include MS therapies on the World Health Organisation’s essential medicine list in order to improve access to treatment globally and supported MSIF’s their global campaign for World MS Day.