Posted on 2 May, 2016

For the first time, the Open Heart International team in Tanzania has overlapped with a fellow surgical volunteer-driven organisation and shared the hospital’s operating theatres and the Intensive Care Unit with Muntada Aid.

Not dissimilar to Open Heart International, Muntada Aid’s flagship health program – the Little Hearts project – has saved the lives of hundreds of children who had suffered from congenital heart defects and would have had a shortened life had they not received an operation.


Khalid Kamal Alhroub, Little Heart’s Head Nurse Cardiac Surgery ICU, said this was the second time the team from Saudi Arabia travelled to Tanzania compared to Open Heart International’s third year.

“Africa needs the support, they need a lot of help,” Khalidsaid.

“Our healthcare system is very advanced because we have the support, but here especially in Africa you have poor countries without much support.

“The amazing thing is the staff are willing to learn and try their best to help you and to support you while you are here.

“Small kids benefit from this project because basically you are saving their lives when the country doesn’t have the service, which is a complicated service without the backup infrastructure and trained staff.”

Just like Open Heart International, Little Hearts send cardiologists to Tanzania days before the rest of the team arrives to screen and schedule patients.

Their team will also leave staff behind to ensure the ICU is staffed well and patients receive the care they need before departing.

Similar to Open Heart International’s intentions, Khalid‘s ultimate goal would be for Tanzania to have and run its own sustainable cardiac program.

“I would love to see centres to serve Africa, such as one entire centre in Sudan … It would be much easier,” he says.

“It is a long-term plan; it would need a lot of effort, a lot of support and then money.”

Khalid has been to 11 countries in the last eight years, making this his 38thmission, travelling to developing countries such as Syria, Egypt, Bangladesh and Morocco.

When he first started, the team comprised five people and has grown to 30.


“Our surgery numbers range from 65-90, which includes cardiac surgery as well as intervention cardiac surgery,” he says.

“I feel amazed (at how much we have grown) because we have a lot of volunteers and people who lined up to be with us.”

Fuelled by giving back,Khalid says “we are human – we have to help each other”.

“When you see the smiles of the patients and the staff here that is enough,” he says.

“(The trips) It changed my personality, it changed my view on life.

“When you do such a work and you go back home and you see your kids and you see your friends you feel different; you feel like you have helped someone.

“And that someone, maybe without your presence, might have been dead, but now fortunately the surgery is done.”

Khalid, who averages four trips a year, says leaving his family is hard but will continue to volunteer because he loves to help the children.

“We are leaving families behind but they understand why we are doing it,” he says.

“I like saving kids and I like to work with them.”

Khalid praised the efforts of the Open Heart International team, which is dedicating this trip to advancing the training of three local doctors- anaesthetist Onesmo Mhewa, paediatric surgeon Godwin Sharau, and cardiologist Naizihiiwa Mnong’one- and their large team of nurses and other support staff.

“Thank you guys – you are doing a great thing here and this is the first time we overlap with another,” he says.

“You are very passionate like us.”


Tags:  East Africa,