Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft charity, and global children’s health charity Kids Operating Room (KidsOR) are celebrating the first milestone of the organisations’ life-saving partnership with the completion of the first renovated paediatric operating room at Bugando Medical Centre in Mwanza, Tanzania. 

The state-of-the-art paediatric operating room and recovery ward have been fitted out with the latest medical equipment as well as colourful wall art of animals, trains, and balloons—designs that are meant to transform the often-intimidating environment of an operating room into a welcoming, child-friendly space.

A dedicated paediatric operating room is essential for Bugando Medical Centre, which serves a region of over 14 million people and averages over 9,000 operations each year. 

NGOs Complete Renovation on First Joint Paediatric Operating Room in Tanzania

“With many patients seeking surgical care at our facilities, children are often neglected when it comes to accessing quality surgery. Being able to prioritize paediatric surgical care empowers our teams to support the next generation. The operating rooms breathe fresh air into the hospital’s surgical department, and children are able to recover in a more comforting environment,” said Dr. Massaga, Bugando Medical Centre Acting Director General.

Smile Train Vice-President and Regional Director for Africa Dr. Esther Njoroge-Muriithi was elated at the milestone completion of the operating room, which she sees as an indication of a much larger—and much-needed—shift within access to surgical care within Tanzania and across the region. 

“The new operating room will not only allow surgeons to enhance their skills in caring for children, but also significantly impact the lives of the children we aim to transform through surgery. Children with easily treatable surgical conditions, like cleft lip and palate, can receive high quality, life-saving care when they need it the most,” said Dr. Njoroge-Muriithi.

Rosemary Mugwe, Africa Director for KidsOR, is also delighted by the completion of the paediatric operating room and the role of dedicated paediatric surgeons.

“By installing world-class surgical facilities as we have done in Bugando Medical Centre and by training surgical teams as paediatric specialists, children can get the care they need. By building local capacity in this way, we help to create sustainable healthcare services,” said Rosemary Mugwe.

Smile Train and KidsOR share a long-standing commitment to increasing access to paediatric surgical and anaesthesia care through a sustainable and empowering model. In partnership with the West African College of Surgeons and the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa, Smile Train and KidsOR will also support training and education for more than 40 surgeons across Africa, building long-term local surgical capacity.

Over the last two decades, Smile Train has empowered local medical professionals to provide safe, high-quality cleft surgery and on-going cleft care, supporting more than 1.5 million surgeries for some of the world’s most vulnerable children over the last two decades.

Similarly, KidsOR, which was founded in 2018 after years of collaboration around safe surgery, works to provide dedicated, specialist facilities and equipment for paediatric surgery in low-resource settings, and to support local surgical teams through training and infrastructure development. KidsOR has committed to installing 120 paediatric operating rooms across Africa by 2030.

An estimated two-thirds of the world’s children lack access to safe surgical care. The long-term collaboration will ultimately result in more than 30 paediatric operating rooms provided across countries in Africa over the next five years, treating more than 12,000 children.

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Nisha Kotecha is the Founder of Good News Shared. Having worked and volunteered for charities in the UK for over 10 years, Nisha is on a mission to highlight how amazing charities are.

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