05/04/2007versione stampabileprintinvia paginasend

Salam heart surgery centre has been inaugurated today in Khartoum
From our correspondent
Cecilia Strada
Khartoum. Sunia is sixteen years old and smiles. Ali Osman Taha, Sudan vice president, is few steps away but today Sunia is probably the most important person here: she is the first patient operated in the Salam heart surgery centre, built by Emergency on the Blue Nile banks. Salam centre, open since April 19th, has been officially inaugurated today.

The 'dance of the blades' during the inauguration ceremonyAt 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, wali 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.

Emergency president, Teresa Sarti, and the sudanese vice-president Ali Osman TahaAlso 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.

Sunia, the first patient operated in the Salam centreTemperature 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.