The first dedicated paediatric operating room within a refugee camp is set to be officially opened in Kenya thanks to a Scottish charity.
Situated in Kakuma in the world’s largest refugee camp, the facilities have been funded by Kids Operating Room (KidsOR).
The charity has delivered and installed more than 3000 items of equipment and surgical tools to provide safe surgery at the camp, which has a bigger population than Dundee.
While the operating room has been in use for almost a year, the official opening ceremony was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and repeated local terrorist warnings.
However the celebrations on Friday will mark the facility’s ability to provide operations for up to 1000 children each year and offer life saving treatments previously unavailable to those in the camp.
Dr Neema Kaseje, paediatric surgeon, KidsOR advisory member and WEF Young Global Leader has been training a surgical team in Kenya to maximise use of the operating room, while leading the procedures that have taken place to date.
She said: “It’s hard for most of us to imagine living in a refugee camp setting, let alone the thought of our child not being able to access the surgery that could save their life or alleviate them from terrible pain.
“I am looking forward to finally commemorating the opening of this crucial facility and I am honoured to be able to play a part in these life-changing operations and the social and economic benefits the installation has brought to the area.”
KidsOR research identified that 1.75 billion children – around nine in every 11 children globally – don’t have access to safe surgical care should they need it.
Each year, 54 million additional children need surgical procedures that are not available.
One of the first patients to undergo surgery by Dr Neema and her team at the new facility was Jibril Hussein Imidi.
The ten-year-old has suffered from a debilitating and painful hernia since birth and his condition was left untreated due to the lack of specialist surgeons and facilities that were adapted to children, causing him severe stomach pain and digestion issues.
After the 40-minute surgery finally took place, Jibril’s mother, Aziza said: “We had so many challenges before he was operated on. We could not go a week without him falling sick. The hospital became our home; we spent less time at home and more time at the hospital.
“The operating room provided Jibril with the operation that he so desperately needed. The surgery has helped so much. He is now back at school and doing so well.”
Launched by husband and wife team Garreth and Nicola Wood, KidsOR operating rooms have enabled 49,154 operations in 2021, an increase of 65% from 29,780 the previous year.
More than 65% of operations were elective compared to 34% emergency procedures.
The estimated economic benefit to African and South American countries where KidsOR has completed installations increased by almost £0.5bn in the same period, up from $1.07bn to $1.52bn.
Garreth Wood, co-founder of KidsOR, said “The new safe surgical facilities, equipment and trained medical staff in Kakuma have already had a substantial effect and we are looking forward to finally recognising this achievement.
“Thousands of children can now access timely surgical care in Kakuma Refugee camp – which has a bigger population than Dundee – and this is something that should be celebrated.
“It will be rewarding for many of those involved in this milestone project to officially mark the occasion, especially after the long delays and understandable postponements of the event over the last year. This is only the start and we will strive to continue progressing this vital requirement not only throughout Africa but other developing countries.”