More than seven thousand babies born with birth defects of the heart each year are missing out on life saving surgeries, the Uganda Heart Institute (UHI) revealed on Saturday as they hosted Jennifer Jones the Rotary International President.
Dr. John Omagino, the UHI Executive Director said Rotary has over the years been sponsoring a hundred children each year to go for surgery but this support is only a drop in the ocean as up to eight thousand children need this intervention each year.
The Institute he says only manages to handle a total of about a thousand babies where some are self-sponsored by their parents as this surgery costs five thousand dollars (about Shs19million), unaffordable to many Ugandans. As a result thousands others opt to stay home and await their death.
Overall, Omagino says 1% of the estimated 1.6million children born each year suffer these congenital heart defects where only half recover without surgery. He explains that while its unclear how these defects come about, mothers who smoke or use drugs, those that conceive too or too late in life are more at risk of having babies with defects.
However, at the meeting, the Rotary International president said more funding for heart surgeries is possible considering that they had just signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a number of corporate copanies here to align their giving to rotary Uganda with rotary’s seven areas of coverage which include health.
Meanwhile, at the event, Uganda’s first beneficiary of Rotary’s free surgery gave a testimony having had her treat in 1975. Grace Agwaru, now a member of the Rotary Club of Kampala North was five years old when she was referred to the United States for her heart defect to be corrected.
Agwaru says from Soroti her parents had referred to Mulago hospital where they met Prof. Francis Omaswa who through rotary connected them for treatment abroad. At the time, many of children with heart defects like hers could not make it beyond ten years.