In August 2014, African Steps, in partnership with Pan African Heart Foundation and Philips Healthcare, sent a team to screen the children of Likoma Island.
The screening forms part of a significant international study into detection of heart disease in resource-poor settings.
417 children, aged 9-12, were examined clinically and underwent echocardiography (heart ultrasound), to detect rheumatic heart disease (RHD). Although a devastating disease leading to heart failure and premature death in later life, RHD can be treated with antibiotics if found during the early stages. If detected later, surgery is sometimes necessary.
RHD is a disease of poverty, and has been made a priority for the World Health Organisation.
Two student doctors, John Hardie and Ben Goodman, along with student nurse Jemima Downing, carried out the initial screening in four locations on the island over one week. Local Health Officer Benjamin Chitukwe publicised the screening, translated, and liaised with headmasters and local authorities.
26 children were called for further investigations by Kenya-based surgeon Professor Raj Jutley, and Swedish cardiologist, Dr Anders Barasa. 8 children require monthly antibiotics, 2 require annual followup, and 1requires surgical intervention.
African Steps and Pan African Heart Foundation are currently in the process of funding and arranging treatment for these children, who would have otherwise been forgotten.
Over the coming months, the data will be analysed to assess the effectiveness of the screening methods used, with a view to running similar programmes in the future.
‘Lives are being saved. Without you people our young boys and girls would have perished’ said hospital administrator, Francis Vuma.
‘With your ongoing support, African Steps will be enabled to continue to co-ordinate an international effort to carry out this vital work on the island, and treat those children who would otherwise go undetected.’
• Read more at African Steps.