Only 14 children with holes in the heart turned up at the Uganda Heart Institute when a UK-based charity organisation offered free surgery procedures to correct the defect, leaving the doctors disappointed.
Over 19,000 children born in Uganda every year are born with some form of heart defect, and about 10 per cent of them die within the first year due to lack of treatment. Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) is the most common one of such defects. This is a hole in the wall between the heart’s lower chambers which is most often present at birth.
Uganda Heart Institute (UHI) in Mulago hospital is the only health facility in Uganda providing children’s heart care. It started in 2013 but their capacity is still very limited with the ability to provide heart surgeries and interventions at only 300 children out of the 19,000 which require such procedures every year.
Last week Muntada Aid, a UK based charity organization through its “Little Hearts” programme sent a team of doctors who successfully performed the first VSD interventions on children at the UHI. It is the first time that such procedures are being carried out on young children in Uganda.
This was the organization’s first mission in Uganda which started on November 18-23 at the UHI where the doctors performed procedures and interventions on 14 children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds suffering from congenital heart defects.
According to Kabir Miah, the health programmes manager of Muntada Aid, they could have operated on a big number of patients because they had the capacity to carry out seven to eight procedures per day but they were limited by the only four ICU beds available to them at the heart’s institute and the low turn up of patients.
He, however, stated that the mission is not just about operating on children, but also about educating, lecturing and training doctors to ensure long term sustainability of the project.
“Our long-term aim is to build capacity and provide the necessary training required by doctors and other support staff to conduct similar complex operations on children in Uganda," said Kabir.
Dr Peter Lwabi, deputy executive director of Uganda Heart Institute commented, "Such missions are essential to our country. We value the importance of essential transfer of knowledge, skills and know-how these missions bring. We have signed a memorandum of understanding with Muntada Aid for long term help and support and we look forward to a long and successful collaboration."
Muntada Aid is a global humanitarian charity organization which runs sustainable health, educational, water security and emergency relief projects and Little Hearts is the organization’s flagship programme, which provides free life-saving heart surgeries to children with congenital heart defects from underprivileged backgrounds irrespective of gender, race or religion.
Muntada Aid has so far carried 30 missions in various countries and during these missions, they have performed just over 2300 cardiac interventions and surgeries.