KAMPALA – Four Rotary clubs in association with donors have donated $272,500 (over 1 billion shillings) to the Uganda Heart Institute (UHI) to help carry out free heart surgeries on 150 children.
The grant, which came from Rotary clubs of Kampala, Naalya, Mengo and Bukoto, was handed over to UHI on Friday by Mr James Serugo from Rotary Club of Kampala.
Mr Serugo said the funding is expected to enhance treatment of heart problems in other districts upcountry, among them, Gulu District, which currently is caring for 200 children with Rheumatic Heart Disease, which damages the heart valves.
Dr Peter Lwabi, the deputy executive director of the Uganda Heart Institute, commended Rotarians and donors for the initiative, arguing that it is timely given that the money they receive from government is not enough.
“At least one in every 100 children in Uganda is born with a heart problem. We have a very long list of children who require these procedures,” Dr Lwabi said.
“We have a waiting list that can make our surgeons busy for one year and that’s a challenge. So when you come for surgery, they will tell you that you wait for one year from now because we don’t have enough space and resources to operate on the patients as they come,” he added.
In Uganda, 90% of heart diseases can now be diagnosed and treated. Many health facilities in the country provide basic diagnostic and treatment services for heart disease and have protocols for referring patients with need to higher levels of care.
According to a report by the Uganda Heart Association, cardiovascular diseases are second to infectious diseases in causing death in Africa, accounting to 11% of the total deaths.
“In 2012, about 18 million people died from cardiovascular diseases, representing 31% of all global deaths (WHO 2014). Heart attack is the second leading cause of death in Africa preceded by communicable diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. The in-hospital mortality following heart attack is as high as 10%,” reads the report.
The World Health Organization estimates the incidence of congenital heart disease to be stable at 1%. This means that each year, 1 of every 100 babies born will have a heart defect. The seriousness of these heart defects is variable. Some are incompatible with life and children born with them will die soon after birth. Some will present later in infancy and childhood with symptoms such as difficulty breathing and poor weight gain while some may never be detected, or may be detected by chance say-during a routine health visit.