Alongside India, Cameroon was the starting point for our international work to help cleft children. We were active in Cameroon from 2003 to 2014. We promoted a cleft project under the direction of a local surgeon and organized operations, which were supported on a voluntary basis by our current board member, Prof. Feyerherd. In the eleven years of our presence, we were able to treat almost 1,300 cleft patients in Cameroon.
In 2009 we started our work to help cleft children in East Africa with a project in Uganda. Until 2016 we carried out surgery mission to the Mbarara University Hospital. The Ugandan cleft team is now working independently, our support in the area of surgery has been completed. Our volunteer project managers from the first day: the two experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeons Dr. Oliver Blume and Gunther Au-Balbach. After seven years of close cooperation, an Ugandan team now accompanies Oliver Blume and Gunther Au-Balbach on their annual missions in East Africa. Oliver Blume gives lectures at the Mbarara University Hospital.
Three further projects were added in East Africa over the years: Rwanda in 2011, Burundi in 2015. Tanzania has been the third location since 2016. In 2019, our teams operated in Rwanda and Tanzania and were able to treat a total of 34 patients.
In Burundi, our last mission for now took place in February 2018. This ended with an attack on our German medical team, which luckily did not harm anyone. Nevertheless, we stopped our work in Burundi until further notice. Our local doctors are also currently unable to work in Burundi. We hope to resume our work to help cleft children in Burundi soon. The primary goal will then be to train a Burundian doctor in cleft surgery.
Our two German project managers’ annual missions serve not only to provide direct medical help for cleft patients, but also to train local doctors. The specialist training of the Rwandan surgeon Dr. Laurent Siborurema was successfully completed in 2013. In addition to the training received from Oliver Blume and Gunther Au-Balbach, Dr. Laurent also took part in a four-week training course in two of our Indian cleft centers.
After years of development work, this investment in East Africa is now bearing fruit: Under the leadership of Dr. Laurent a permanent local team has formed that now independently operates cleft patients in Tanzania.
“The most rewarding moment in our work in East Africa always is when we return the child to the parents after the operation. The joy is overwhelming every time. There is no greater reward for our work. ”
Dr. Dr. Oliver Blume, Project Manager East Africa
Teams from different countries work hand in hand to help cleft children in Africa. The team of the annual surgery mission under the leadership of the experienced German surgeons Oliver Blume and Gunther Au-Balbach includes surgeon Dr. Laurent Siborurema from Rwanda and anesthetist Dr. Emmanuel Munyarugero, surgeon Dr. Deus Twesigye and nurse Caroline Nakyanzi from the University Hospital Mbarara (Uganda).
Our African team, which has been independently organizing and carrying out operations in Tanzania since 2017, is headed by Dr. Laurent. He works at the hospital in Rwamagana in the east of Rwanda, about an hour’s drive from the capital, Kigali. The hospital is our main base in Rwanda. Our partner in Tanzania is the Rulenge-Ngara diocese, represented by Bishop Severine Niwemugizi. The diocese runs several hospitals in Tanzania and lets us use the hospital in Rulenge for our operations. Dr. Prosper Mallya, doctor at the hospital in Rulenge, coordinates the work on site and organizes the patient search.
East Africa is one of our priority regions. Giving a cleft child its surgery costs 300 euros in East Africa – slightly more than in most of our other project countries. Please help us with your donation, so that we can treat even more cleft children in Africa and thus give them a better perspective in life.
With its 26,000 km², Rwanda is one of the smallest countries in Africa. With 12 million inhabitants, it is also one of the most densely populated. Almost half of the population is under the age of 18. The number of children per family is high: on average, one woman gives birth to five children.
With an area of 947,000 km² – about 2.7 times the size of Germany – Tanzania is one of the largest countries in Africa. Tanzania is a popular travel destination. But despite the income from tourism, the country is still very poor. Infectious diseases such as malaria and AIDS are common. Life expectancy is correspondingly low (64 years). 30.7 percent of people are malnourished. Child mortality is very high: 53 out of 1,000 children die before their fifth birthday.