Israel NGO helps Rwandan children diagnosed with heart diseases

Minister for Health Dr Diane Gashumba screens one of the children recently. / Courtesy

This week, a group of eight children diagnosed with cardiac (heart) disease travelled to Israel to get paediatric cardiac care, thanks to ‘Save a Child’s Heart’ (SACH), an Israel organisation working to save children from developing countries.

According to the organisation, the children who were taken to Israel will receive life-saving heart treatment at Wolfson Medical Centre. They travelled with their caretakers – four mothers, one doctor and one nurse.

“This is part of the bigger partnership we have with the Ministry of Health of Rwanda. We want to go beyond taking children to Israel to developing this partnership further, including building local capacity for cardiac surgeons in Rwanda,” the organisation’s Executive Director, Simon Fisher told Sunday Times in a Telephone interview.

The humanitarian effort was also made possible thanks to the partnership between Save a Child’s Heart and the Rwanda Ministry of Health, the Mitrelli Group, RwandAir, the Australian Orah Foundation and the Israeli Embassy in Rwanda.

Fisher said it costs about USD15,000 (charitable cost) to treat each child. But if the children had gone on private medical care, it would cost them twice the amount, and if it were in the United States, it would even be five times that amount.

The average stay of the children in Israel will be between two and three months.

According to the organisation, the eight children were screened and diagnosed last year in Rwanda by a ‘Save a Child’s Heart’ visiting team at the Kigali Teaching University Hospital (CHUK).

The team from Israel worked together with their Rwandan partners, cardiologists Dr. Emmanuel Rusingiza Kamanzi and Dr Joseph Mucumbitsi and together they examined close to 50 children with heart diseases.

It is the second batch of the children who have travelled to receive cardiac care under the same initiative. The first group comprised of eight children, too, and have all recovered and are back with their families in the country.

The programme was first initiated by Mitrelli Group’s chairman and the President of SACH in Africa, Haim Taib together with the support of Rwanda’s Health minister, Dr Diane Gashumba.

Mitrelli Group is one of the financial backers of Save a Child’s Heart.

“Israel is very proud to be involved in this partnership, and we look forward to continue working together in the health sector and supporting this important operation,” Israeli Ambassador to Rwanda, Ron Adam noted.

The Vice President for Business Development at Mitrelli, Roy Gordon, had in the past told Sunday Times that their ultimate long-term goal was to facilitate the creation of a paediatric cardiac centre in Kigali that will serve the local population and foreign patients.

Rwanda currently has limited capacity to deal with cardiovascular diseases. While hospitals like CHUK are able to conduct medical diagnosis for heart diseases, medics and patients have always pointed out that delayed diagnosis has been a big problem.

That is in addition to the lack of enough specialists to conduct heart surgeries.

Several other health initiatives championed by charities such as Open Heart International, Team Heart and Rwanda Heart Foundation sponsor surgery for some cases but their efforts are small-scale.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

ADVERTISEMENT