Q&A shares with you today the Eritrean experience of two Italian medics, speaking on behalf of their association, ‘One Heart, One World’. Dr. Mario and Nurse Souad are members of the medics of the association who had a lengthy journey that touched the many Eritrean families and their children with heart related problems. DR. MARIO LOCATELLI
PRESIDENT OF THE “ONE HEART, ONE WORLD” ASSOCIATION
- Thank you for your time.
Thank you for having me. I am the President of the association established some twenty-six years ago, which is more or less the age of our daughter. She was cardio phatic and was operated in the Hospital of Massa. Back then, we personally felt the pain one parent goes through when his or her child is in turbulence. So, we decided to support parents with cardio phatic children by funding the association.
- What do you normally do in Eritrea?
We give the essential treatments to save children affected by cardiac diseases, which are commonly congenital. However, recently we discovered something new in our patients here; we found children with rheumatic heart diseases. And we treat that too. It is, of course, very difficult to treat if not discovered early on.
That being said, we work in line with our colleagues here to come up with a work map which combines surgical care and campaigns of prevention, especially rheumatic diseases.
- Who do you mainly collaborate with in Eritrea?
The Ministry of Health, starting from 2007. As for the rheumatic treatment, we started our venture in 2012. We keep strong contact with the Ministry of Health and they have been very available to support our project since the beginning.
- You mentioned that you also take on prevention campaigns?
We do. We conduct surveys in schools. We started our survey in schools in Asmara and its environs, and every year we’d expand our survey ratio by visiting more schools even outside of towns. In cases like these we mainly work with teachers. Schools invite us for surveys and they help us spread the word about cardio phatic diseases, their cures and prevention methods. There, we do screening using cardiograph machines to check what kind and which level of sickness the children have reached if any are found, which is then followed up.
- How has working with local hospitals and doctors been?
Our network scheme is of two levels. The first is our dialogues and discussions regarding projects that we carry out and adjust to the needs and priorities of the country and its people. The second is that we can talk about the relationship our association keeps with the parents and children. In any case the children are our privileged focus, and we care about them and their health. After all, our main purpose for being here is to help children with cardio phatic diseases.
- What makes you come back to Eritrea over and over again?
I have moral responsibility to come here and help the children. If I’d ever miss one round I would really feel bad as each year the children wait for doctors to come. Our association has the duty of raising fund in Italy to cover our expenses coming here.
We started our mission in different countries of Africa and we also had been to Yemen. Most of the time, we had to stop because of local political situations. We were also reaching out for the east side of Europe when the Balkan was not connected to the EU. In Eritrea, the situation has been favorable for us to comeback and work. First of all, the country is rather small, so we can plan for longer sustainable projects within the funds we have. Secondly, we are surrounded by a work atmosphere of cooperation and friendship.
- Can you tell me about this year’s mission?
This year, too, has been demanding but also rewarding. We have worked both on surgical and prevention campaigns which have proved to be very successful.
- What does the future hold for you, your team and your colleagues here in Eritrea?
We want to work on the formation of a professional partnership for medical doctors and nurses in the field. We would like to share our knowledge and expertise to boost the knowledge and performance of local medics. This is definitely a profession that takes years and years of study, observation and practice to be mastered, but it is absolutely about time that local doctors start to specialize in this medical aspect. Medical professionals in Asmara, Keren, Massawa and Barentu have already started joining our formation programs, so I see a bright future ahead. Our contact is with the Ministry of Health and it is they who plan everything for us before we come.
SCRUB NURSE, CARDIAC SURGERY
Everyone in our team is glad to be working here. Every time we come our schedule is packed and it sometimes gets really difficult but the children keep us moving and work harder every time. When we see satisfied parents and happy children… we can’t ask for more! Every year we try to conduct more surgeries and prevention campaigns. This year, we had two or three cases per day in the past few days we’ve been here. Post-surgery, we have to guarantee the follow up of the children and there we have partners who make sure that it is conducted regularly. In case of emergency local doctors make some prevention that is mostly not surgical.
This journey is all about common trust. A mission that we conduct along with our partners here and parents of the children. Without their assistance our joint venture wouldn’t have been as sustainable and fruitful. Mostly, I have been astonished by Eritrean mothers. That definitely remains in my mind. As a mother myself I can see that Eritrean mothers are strong, aware about medicine and are willing to do anything for their children with the little they have. They don’t have a lot of knowledge, but they fully understand the treatments and prevention schemes and follow through for their children’s sake. I would like to commend them wholeheartedly.