Top-of-the-line care

Friday - - Society -

Ethiopia is show­ing signs of eco­nomic progress but 78 per cent of its 86 mil­lion peo­ple still have to live on about Dh6 a day. Pre­ventable dis­eases in­clud­ing malaria ac­count for at least 60 per cent of the coun­try’s health prob­lems. The life ex­pectancy of the av­er­age lo­cal is around 59 years – hardly sur­pris­ing given that state health ex­pen­di­ture is un­der Dh80 per per­son per year. And for ev­ery 1,000 chil­dren five years old and younger there are 166 deaths.

Dr Khan’s Ethiopian team is de­ter­mined to make a dif­fer­ence. It is made up of ex­pe­ri­enced doc­tors, nurses and tech­ni­cians from hos­pi­tals in­clud­ing Lon­don’s Basil­don, Royal Bromp­ton and Hare­field – as well as Ethiopian col­leagues. The Bri­tish mem­bers have taken un­paid leave to vol­un­teer in the east African na­tion for UK char­ity Chain of Hope, which pro­vides freeof-cost cor­rec­tive surgery and treat­ment for chil­dren with life-threat­en­ing heart con­di­tions across the world.

Fresh de­spite an eight-hour flight, they have im­me­di­ately de­camped to the Car­diac Cen­tre Ethiopia, a shiny new build­ing that sits proudly in the cen­tre of bustling Ad­dis Ababa.

It was set up in 2009 fol­low­ing a £500,000 (Dh2.96 mil­lion) dona­tion from Chain of Hope to fund two car­diac op­er­at­ing the­atres and a six-bed in­ten­sive care unit.

The cen­tre had been the dream of Ethiopian doc­tor Be­lay Abegaz for 20 years. He trav­elled the dusty roads of his coun­try try­ing to raise money to make it a re­al­ity by trum­pet­ing the slo­gan, “One birr for one heart.” (A birr equates to about 20 fils.) Pro­fes­sor Sir Magdi Ya­coub, the em­i­nent UK heart sur­geon who founded the Chain of Hope, heard of Dr Abegaz’s quest and stepped for­ward to help.

In 2009, Pro­fes­sor Ya­coub led the first Chain of Hope vol­un­teer med­i­cal mis­sion to Ethiopia, which saved 12 chil­dren’s lives. Since then, the world’s lead­ing con­sul­tants such as Pro­fes­sor Ya­coub and Dr Khan have treated 700 chil­dren and young adults in Ad­dis Ababa.

They are also train­ing Ethiopian doc­tors and nurses so the project can one day be self-

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