Dundee will play a pivotal role in a Scottish health charity’s partnership to build 20 new operating rooms in Africa which will help thousands of cleft palate children.
Kids Operating Room (KidsOR) has already installed 25 paediatric facilities in 11 countries across Africa and South America and is later this year due to open the first at a refugee camp in Kenya.
They will now work with Smile Train, the world’s biggest cleft palate charity, to supply an initial 20 sites across Africa by 2021, caring for more than 12,000 youngsters.
The first operating room will be based at a teaching hospital at Treichville on the Ivory Coast, with equipment currently being loaded up from the KidsOR warehouse in Dundee. All of the operating rooms will leave Tayside on their journey to the continent.
The Scots charity was founded by Nicola and Garreth Wood in 2018 with the aim of installing 120 paediatric operating rooms across the continent by 2030.
Chief executive David Cunningham said: “We are extremely proud to work with Smile Train on this project.
“Our strategies for the development of care in Africa are closely aligned and by collaborating we can maximise our combined impact, minimise administrative costs and prevent duplication of effort.
“We are delighted to be able to work with them to ensure that more children have access to the care they need in a sustainable, locally delivered way.”
New York-based Smile Train helps give training, funding, and resources to provide free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children around the world.
It is hoped the new partnership will result in further procedures across African countries with more than 30 paediatric operating rooms built over the next five years.
The Treichville hospital serves a population of five million people and provides training for surgeons from many other countries in Africa – but has no dedicated operating room for children.
Professor Bankole Sanni Rouma, a paediatric surgeon there, said: “Often in our hospital, we do not have the right equipment to perform paediatric surgery safely.
“Especially with small children and babies, we cannot use the large surgical instrument we have available.
“This means that children with easily treatable surgical conditions, like cleft lip and palate, do not always receive proper, life-saving care when they need it the most.
“The new operating room for children’s surgery will make a big difference to my hospital, and the hundreds of children we can now help, as it will allow surgeons to enhance their skills in caring for children and provide the proper equipment for treatment.”
Susannah Schaefer, Smile Train president and CEO, said: “Smile Train and KidsOR share a core set of values – sustainability, empowerment, local leadership, and a dedication to providing safe surgical and anaesthesia care for children.
“Through this partnership, we will be able to build that long-term capacity and make a difference in the lives of so many people affected by treatable surgical conditions like cleft.”