Four children with congenital heart conditions from South Sudan are expected to arrive Wednesday in Israel for treatment by Israeli pediatric cardiologists.
The effort is a collaboration between the IsraAID and Save a Child’s Heart organizations, and is the culmination of two years of planning and overcoming local challenges in South Sudan.
The children – Gai, 8, Habiba, 6, Phillip, 5, and Joel, 5 – all receive day-to-day support from IsraAID’s child-friendly spaces and protection programs in Juba IDP camps. They were diagnosed during a medical mission from Save a Child’s Heart to South Sudan in March 2019, when pediatric cardiologist Dr. Akiva Tamir and then-Israeli Ambassador to South Sudan Hanan Goder travelled to Al Sabah Children’s Hospital to screen and diagnose children with heart disease. Thirty-seven children were screened during that mission.
The children will each be accompanied by a guardian as well as IsraAID and Save a Child’s Heart staff members on their trip from Juba to Tel Aviv. Once in Israel, they will undergo heart surgery at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon. The children and their guardians will stay at the Save a Child’s Heart Children’s Home for several months as they undergo and recover from surgery.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs purchased the flight tickets for the children and their escorts, as part of the initiative to bring children from 25 African countries to mark the 25th anniversary of Save a Child’s Heart.
Save a Child’s Heart works internationally to save the lives of children from countries where access to pediatric cardiac care is limited or nonexistent.
The four children from South Sudan will be joining children already in Israel from Chad, Rwanda, Zanzibar, Ethiopia, Somaliland, Zambia, and the Palestinian Authority. This collaboration marks a milestone for both organizations: the first time that Save a Child’s Heart is serving communities in South Sudan, as well as marking the expansion of IsraAID South Sudan’s work into health.
“When I first spoke to the President of South Sudan about the initiative to bring children to Israel for life-saving heart surgery, he was very enthusiastic, but I was not sure if it would actually come about. But through the excellent cooperation of Save a Child’s Heart and IsraAID, working together with the Ministry of Health in South Sudan, it is happening,” said Israel’s Ambassador to South Sudan Gershon Kedar.
“I hope and trust that this will be the first group of many that will come to Israel. This initiative complements the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ work in the health sector in South Sudan, including the building and outfitting of the first modern emergency unit at the Juba Teaching Hospital, and the recent training course for doctors and nurses. I wish the children health and happiness and thank IsraAID and Save a Child’s Heart for their exemplary work.”
IsraAID’s Head of Health Sector, Sita Cacioppe said the organization has “always been amazed by the strength and resilience of the community in South Sudan.”
Save a Child’s Heart Executive Director Simon Fisher added his organization is “very excited to see these children arrive in Israel after such a long wait,” and said IsraAID’s offer to help has been “a true game changer.”