Kiwi Save Zambians

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A Canterbury-based project started by an Ashburton doctor is saving the lives of
people in Africa.

 

The
Mutima Project organises medical volunteers to travel to Zambia to perform
life-saving heart surgery.

 

Zambia
has no heart service or surgeon for its 14 million citizens, resulting in more
than 400 people dying of Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) a year. According to the
World Health Organisation, RHD is the most common killer of young adults in
Zambia, accounting for approximately 60 per cent of cardiac cases.

 

This
prompted Zambian expat Dr Munanga Mwandila to form the charitable trust with
several colleagues in 2009.

 

Dr
Mwandila, who works at Ashburton Hospital, said his inspiration for the project
started when he was a junior doctor in Zambia, as he helplessly watched a young
mother die from RHD.

 

“It
was a really painful experience, because I knew even then that if she had the
simple operation, she would’ve been living a normal life and be a mother to her
two children.”

 

Many
Zambians cannot afford to have heart surgery abroad, because the cost of
US$25,000 (NZ$29,000) is too great – more than 60 per cent of Zambians live in
poverty.

 

“In
many cases, when you have a heart condition in Zambia, you have to start
preparing for your funeral,” said Auckland City Hospital intensive care
nurse Grace Muyoma, a member of the project and a Zambian expat.

 

The
long-term goal of the Mutima Project is to help the Zambian government
establish a cardiothoracic unit through their annual visits over five years, Dr
Mwandila said.

 

So far,
there has been one trip to Zambia, conducted over three weeks in March 2011,
with a team of 30. Seven successful heart operations were completed at the
University Teaching Hospital in the capital city, Lusaka.

 

Theatre
nurse at Auckland City Hospital Helen Sargent said the most satisfying thing
about the first mission was the outcome of the surgeries for the patients.

 

“All
seven of them had fantastic results,” she said.

 

“The
smiles on the faces of the patients were just amazing. They had a renewed sense
of life.”

 

Dr
Mwandila said they did not manage the second annual mission in 2012, because
they could not raise enough funds.

 

However,
a second trip is planned for later this year, with the hope of more completed
surgeries than on the first trip.

 

 Muyoma said she was touched by New Zealand’s involvement in the Mutima Project.
“The Kiwi staff left their lives, families, and jobs to go to the other
end of the world to save lives,” she said.

 

“As
someone who has had the privilege and opportunity to come abroad, I almost feel
obliged to give back what I can to my country,” Dr Mwandila said.

LVNews

 

 

 

 

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