At 9 a.m.
the temperature is already 40 degrees in the shade. But nobody is even thinking
to run away and shelter beneath one of the many huge mangoes shading the garden:
neither the brass band nor the sword dancers nor the hundreds of people crowding
the road. A big celebration for the centre opening for which the local authorities
– according to the tradition – have sacrificed a big black bull that will be cut
into pieces and distributed among the poorest people in the Soba village, where
the hospital stands. Children run around the beast red blood pool, people dance
and sing while waiting for the authorities. Then the Khartoum State governor,
Abdulaim al Muthafy, arrives: “The first time you proposed this project – he
says while hugging the Emergency surgeon Gino Strada – I thought it was a folly.
An now look there!”. The centre is behind his shoulders: high technology, respect
for the environment, the ability to perform – at full regime – 1500 heart surgery
operations each year. With equal or higher standards compared to Europe. In two
weeks of activity already seventeen patients have been operated: Sunia has been
the first, who had her mitral valve replaced and now runs laughing below the big
tent laid out in front of the hospital not to miss the ceremony start.
Also the Sudan health federal minister
, Tabita Butros,
arrives along with his neighbour states colleagues: Central African Republic
health minister, Uganda health vice minister, Eritrea health general director.
And with them all the ambassadors of Sudan surrounding countries: because the
Salam centre will take care of patients from all the region and will be a reference
point for heart surgery in a huge part of Africa. Police motorbikes arrive, children
are moved away, dancers lay down swords and shields and all line up along the
two sides of the road: here are the dark cars of Sudan vice-president Ali Osman
Taha who cuts the pink ribbon at the heart surgery centre together with Emergency
president Teresa Sarti. People cheer, men shout. The vice president visits the
hospital and then it is time for official speeches. Teresa Sarti explains that
“Emergency believes in men and women rights that must be universal by definition.
And the right to have a healthy heart is no exception”. Then Gino Strada receives
by presidential decree the Nileen
, that is the two Nile award. The surgeon, who is back from the hospital intensive
care receives the highest award in Sudan still wearing the green plastic overshoes.
Temperature below the big tent rises
, men fix their white turbans, women dry off the sweat behind their veils. Outside
the band patiently waits while the brass instruments are heating up under the
sun. After the words of Malek Abdu, a top manager in the Department of Health
who praises an excellence centre that will be the pride of all the continent,
the silence is broken by a man's cry. “Allah Akbar”, God is great, he shouts pointing
his finger at the sky. He is not part of the authority delegation, he is among
the public behind the small stand. He keeps on shouting in Arabic. And he cries
that a woman in his family was about to die after that for three years they could
not gather the necessary money for the necessary surgery. And he shouts that everyone
was resigned to the idea of her death when this centre was opened, free and for
all. “Thanks to Emergency and thanks to God”. No speech could have been better,
together with Sunia's silent smile, to celebrate the Salam centre opening.