By Lawrence Njoku and Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi
Enugu and Jos — The University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Ituku-Ozalla, Enugu State was a Mecca of sorts yesterday, as parents across the federation besieged the facility with their children for open heart surgeries.
As at press time, 75 of the children had undergone various medical examinations and screenings to prepare them for the heart surgeries being conducted free of charge at the hospital by an Italy-based organisation, Pobic Open Heart International.
Unfortunately, the medical experts from the foundation, who kick-started the surgeries yesterday, said that they would only handle 12 cases within the one week they are spending in the country.
It was gathered that one of the children brought from Yenagoa, Bayelsa State died less than one hour on arrival, while the rest of the patients were placed on medication till the next session.
Confirming the development yesterday, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of UNTH, Dr. Christopher Amah, lamented the high rate of heart diseases among Nigerians, stressing that there was need for emergency action from government as well as wealthy individuals and organisations on checking the trend.
He said: “They (Pobic officials) are going to spend one week here and will be able to do only 12 cases.
But what is that number compared to the number of children that have gathered from parts of this country for open heart surgeries? But that will give you an idea of the burden of disease that we are talking about here and meanwhile, all the help we are getting are from foreigners.
“The question will then be, where are our own people, what are we doing for them? Most of these children if their surgeries are not done quickly will all die before this team returns to the country. It is sad.”
Amah continued: “As at yesterday (Tuesday), 75 children have gathered here brought by their mothers and fathers for this surgery. This is because the surgery is 100 per cent free.
The group on ground is our Italian partners and in this partnership, there are four groups involved – the Pobic Open Heart Foundation from Italy, a charitable organisation, the medical team they use also from Italy, the Rotary International and Gift of Life Rotary – which came from United States and was visiting Nigeria for the first time”.
However, the winner of the 2017 Big Brother Naija reality show, Efe Ejeba, has implored well-meaning Nigerians to contribute financially towards alleviating the suffering of downtrodden children in dire need of heart surgeries.
The celebrity, who made the call on Monday when he visited four children who had successfully undergone heart surgeries at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) in Plateau State, pleaded with wealthy Nigerians at home and abroad to come to the aid of children suffering from heart diseases and related issues.
Consequently, Ejeba launched moves to raise N1 billion for conduct of free medical and surgical operations for this category of children.
The artiste said he was in Jos to create awareness on the need to save these children with individual contribution of N1,000.
He said: “I am the fund-raising ambassador for Hospitals for Humanity.
The project is aimed at raising N1 billion, having individuals donating at least N1000 to aid hospitals to conduct free surgeries for children with heart conditions from Nigeria.”