Training, Diagnosis and Treatment of Paediatric Heart Diseases

Project location: ERITREA, Horn of Africa
Project start date: December 2006 - Project end date: This project covers various years
Project number: 2006-46
Beneficiary: Voci di Popoli nel Mondo

[2008-51, 2010-33]

VPM, Voci di Popoli del Mondo (NGO VPM),was set up in 1982; its mission is implementing tools able to improve the standards of living in developing countries as recognized by National ed International Organisations. During the last three years, VPM in has invested quite a lot in improving health conditions in the developing countries, with a special focus on the Horn of Africa. VPM  wants to upgrade the functionality of African hospitals to a level that could cope with managing the prevailing medical problems. Following a Ministerial Decree issued by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs the organization is able to implement cooperation projects in developing countries with a particular focus on training activities. (Ministerial Decree 128/5360/6D 22/11/88 and 2006/337/003/3847/5 del 16.10.2006).

In 2003 VPM signed a Partnership Agreement with the Azienda Ospedaliera S.Camillo-Forlanini (AOSCF). According to such Agreement VPM is able to organise training courses for the health staff working at the AOSCF. Each course gathers some 20 participants and contains practical information for professionals interested in getting involved in technical assistance activities in developing countries. The teaching method is build around transversal problems thus enabling a multidimensional approach to health care. Participants are provided with new tools to handle the new challenges arising from the globalisation and interculturality. In addition, following a Co-operation Agreement between the AOSCF and the Eritrean Ministry of Health, the organisation provided Eritrean hospitals with skilled health professionals in different medical and surgical disciplines. The project is still on-going and is expected to last five years. In 2005 a 6 persons-health-team left for Orotta Hospital in Asmara in order to provide the local staff with technical support.
From 2004 to 2006 some 44 health professionals got involved in technical assistance activities in developing countries, by devoting a particular attention for the Horn of Africa (see box below).


Health facilities



Staff involved

Orotta Civil Hospital - Asmara



Refferal Hospital - Ghinda



Makelle Hospital



Quià Hospital



Ewo Hospital



Galkayo Hospital




According a recent survey carried out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the Horn of Africa, of all heart problems in children, congenital heart defects are the most common, afflicting up to 35,000 children each year in the area. Nearly one out of every 100 babies is born with some form of heart defect, making congenital heart disease the single most common form of birth defect. Furthermore, by 2005 an upgrading trend in paediatric rheumatic-cardiopathies, has been investigated in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. Although most paediatric heart diseases could be successfully treated, the lack of well equipped health centres and a chronic shortage of specialised health personnel make the diagnosis of such pathologies very difficult.


The project which the Nando Peretti Foundation helped to sponsor, will adopt a double-pronged approach aimed not only at providing local personnel with a specific training on paediatric heart diseases and their treatment but also at equipping the selected Hospitals for an efficient diagnostic activity. Thereafter, the project will include the following components:
a training component to develop a comprehensive set of training curricula for local health professionals that address the management of diagnosis and treatment of paediatric heart diseases. The modules will explain how to perform a paediatric heart risk assessment and the steps to be taken for an eventual treatment. All teaching activities will be carried out by the Italian health professionals during their missions to the Hospitals involved in the project. During their stay, the Italian health personnel will provide their

local colleagues with technical assistance in clinical and surgical activities. In order to maximise the efficiency of the missions, each Hospital involved in the project will develop a proper working-plan for the in-coming professionals, with a particular focus on clinic, diagnostic and surgical activities

a technical component that involves the delivery of medical supplies and equipment to the Hospitals involved in the project. Medical supplies and equipment will be stored into containers provided by the World Food Programme (WFP). The maintenance and repair of the medical devices will be carried out by the maintenance staff contracted by the project.

1) 12 health professionals sent on a mission of technical assistance to the following Hospitals:
a. Orotta Civil Hospital  (Eritrea)
b. Ewo Hospital (Ethiopia)
c. Galkayo Hospital (Somalia)
2) 6 training courses for local health workers. Courses will explain how to use medical diagnostic devices and provide useful guidelines for addressing paediatric heart diseases.
3) 6 training courses for hematology technicians. Courses will focus on a core set of blood tests to investigate heart diseases
4) 6 refreshing courses for local medical doctors
5) delivery of medical equipments (ECG and echocardiogram)
6) delivery of medical supplies
7) maintenance and repair of medical devices
8) inter-hospital transportation of children with severe acute heart diseases (the patients will be transported to the Referral Cardiologic Centre in Khartoum - Sudan).

Expected results
Staff members from the 3 Hospitals trained in paediatric health diseases
Improvement in diagnosis of paediatric heart diseases

Improvement in the effectiveness of treatment of paediatric heart diseases
Development of a heath net to connect the Hospitals involved in the project to the Referral Cardiologic Centre in Khartoum (Sudan)


In order to rely on its own financial resources, VPM has developed several fund-raising tools: 
· Gift matching: Heath professionals working at the Azienda Ospedaliera S.Camillo-Forlanini are requested to subscribe a monthly donation (1 Euro) that can be deducted from their gross-income. At the moment the subscribers exceed 400.
· Income tax (IRPEF): taxpayers may chose to give 5/1000 of their annual income tax to VPM's projects
· Therapeutic adoption: in and out-patient is requested to give a donation in order to cure patients living in a developing countries and affected by his/her same diseases.

This project was financed also for the years 2008 and 2010.

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