Delegation of the European Union to Eritrea

Heart Surgery in Asmara: Ten Days That Changed Lives

22/10/2019 - 12:56
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Yacob, thirteen months old, is lying on the bed of the reanimation department at Orotta Hospital, Asmara, following his congenital heart defect (CHD) operation. Without proper medical intervention his chances of survival would have been meager. But now, thanks to the timely intervention by Professor Giovanni Stellin and his team from the University of Padova, he will be able to grow up as a healthy child. During a short ten days spent in Asmara Professor Stellin's team has performed several similar operations, saving young patients' lives.

Young Yacob after heart surgery at Orotta Hospital

During a visit to the Orotta hospital, Professor Stellin told EU's Ambassador Gabor Iklody how this project had started 15 years ago and developed over the years, to include today 4  European medical teams (two Italian, one German and one Swiss), which rotate among themselves. They regularly return to Eritrea to perform 2-300 operations per year. They treat a variety of serious diseases, such as CHD. Over the years, thanks to the equipment support in particular of Germany and Italy, the hospital's medical capacities have been significantly improved. They work on the cases with Eritrean medical personnel, which provides a unique opportunity to conduct a sort of 'hands-on' training, building much-needed local capacities.

The team from Padova is funded through voluntary contributions and private donations. They work for free, using their annual leave. Giovanni, the founder and driving force behind the NGO "Un Cuore Un Mondo Padova" has been returning to Eritrea for fifteen years, as have many others from these European teams. For us, this is an admirable example of professionalism and dedication; for them, this is a commitment that they find highly rewarding both humanely and professionaly.

This has been, from the outset, a truly European effort. Supporting these teams' activities that meet real Eritrean needs is an objective that, no doubt, is worth pursuing. To this end, the EU Delegation to Eritrea will organise a workshop in the first quarter of next year in Asmara to bring together current and potential future medical teams as well as possible donors to promote coordination and explore how this genuinely European initiative could be further reinforced and expanded. All interested willing to contribute are warmly encouraged to attend. We are happy to answer your queries at

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