Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 27th November 2023. The Aga Khan Hospital, Dar es Salaam (AKH, D), in partnership with Reconstructing Women International (RWI) and Muhimbili National Hospital, will be conducting 25 plastic reconstructive surgeries, for the 8th consecutive year. These surgeries aim to restore mobility for women and girls from various regions of Tanzania who have experienced movement impairment due to burns.
Between November 28th and December 2nd, 2023, the hospital is set to host free plastic reconstructive surgeries for 25 women and girls who have suffered from major burns, severe deformities, and are victims of gender-based violence. These procedures will be overseen by a proficient team of international plastic surgeons from Reconstructing Women International (RWI), hailing from the United States, Canada, and Europe. They will collaborate closely with physicians from AKH, D, Muhimbili National Hospital, Bugando Medical Centre, and Mnazi Mmoja Hospital in Zanzibar. Initially, over 60 women and girls with burn-related conditions and who have suffered from complications of violence from across Tanzania underwent free screening, including those conducted in Zanzibar.
Subsequently, a group of 25 women and 7 girls were selected for further screening to determine their eligibility for the surgeries. Finally, the 25 women and girls who met the necessary criteria for plastic reconstructive surgery were included in the treatments at no cost. As part of this initiative, the international surgeons will actively engage with Tanzanian healthcare professionals, providing hands-on demonstrations of various plastic surgery techniques to enhance local expertise in plastic reconstructive surgery. Additionally, on Friday 01st December 2023, AKH, D will conduct a Continuing Medical Education (CME) session for over 100 medical professionals, aimed at raising awareness on plastic reconstructive surgery.
Dr. Athar Ali, Senior Consultant Surgeon, and Head of the Department of Surgery at AKH, D, explained that “this program aims to restore physical function to empower and enhance the quality of life of women and girls in Tanzania. During the last seven phases between 2016-2022, 16 plastic surgeons, general surgeons, and resident students from different public hospitals (Muhimbili National Hospital, Bugando Hospital, Mnazi Mmoja Hospital Zanzibar, AKH, D) have been trained through this program.”
Dr. Andrea Pusic, Plastic Surgeon, the team leader of Reconstructive Women International, shared her insights at the press conference: “This is the 8th year of our very successful partnership with AKH, D and Muhimbili National Hospital. This collaboration has resulted in a very significant increase in local plastic surgery expertise and capacity. Together, we have also been able to provide care to hundreds of injured women and girls to improve their physical function and appearance.”
Dr. Aidan Njau, Consultant General Surgeon at The Aga Khan Hospital, added, “Our Aga Khan Hospital will once again perform major reconstructive surgeries for patients from all over Tanzania who have suffered serious problems such as burns, accidents, etc., and thus have damaged parts of their body. This 5-day program will specifically help women and girls, as they are the group most affected by these problems. Thanks to the philanthropists who have volunteered to conduct this program, the screenings and treatments are being offered free of cost. This program occurs every year with specialist doctors from Europe and North America, and every year there is cooperation and enthusiasm from Tanzanians. I would like to take this opportunity to remind Tanzanians to take advantage of the treatment being offered, as it is normally very expensive but is now available for free.”
Dr. Edwin Mrema, Head of Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery at Muhimbili National Hospital, stated, “As Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, the most satisfying moment of our career is when we help bring back the lost smiles and confidence of women and children.”
Mr. Sisawo Konteh, the Chief Executive Officer of Aga Khan Hospital, thanked the donors for their generous financial contributions to support the surgeries for many years. He mentioned some lessons learnt in the past years, including collaborating with the Lady Fatemah Trust to add mental health support for the patients after their surgeries, to meet their psychological needs and help them return to their normal lives. He also extends his gratitude to the media fraternity for their support over the past 8 years.
To support this extensive endeavor, funding is sourced from various channels including the Aga Khan Hospital Dar es Salaam Patient Welfare Program, Reconstructive Women International, Khalid Islamic Foundation, Lady Fatemah Trust, corporate partners (Stanbic, DTB, Generic, Planet & Centurion), and numerous individual well-wishers. The collective financial contributions play a crucial role in covering the comprehensive spectrum of care, encompassing pre-operative necessities such as medical screening, the intra-operative phase involving surgeries and hospital stay, post-operative care involving dressings and rehabilitation, and providing assistance for patient-relative meals and accommodations.
About the Partnership:
Annually, numerous women and girls in East Africa experience injuries that result in disfigurement and/or disability. These injuries, stemming from accidents or acts of violence, expose women to the risk of social stigma and isolation. Following such injuries, affected women may find themselves unable to carry out domestic duties or pursue employment outside the home, potentially leading to a descent into poverty and a lack of access to essential medical services. Given the pivotal role woman play in caring for children and the elderly within a household, their injuries can also impact the overall well-being of other family members.
To address the needs of injured women in Tanzania, the Aga Khan Health Services Tanzania (AKHST) established a partnership with Reconstructing Women International (RWI) and the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH). The goals of this partnership have been three-fold:
- To surgically restore form and function to injured women and girls,
- To build reconstructive surgery expertise through training of local surgeons and residents, and
- To encourage prevention of domestic violence and accidental burns.
This partnership programme has impacted 239 beneficiaries over the last 8 years and marks the importance of public private partnerships in supporting those in need. It also compliments efforts of the Government of Tanzania to serve the marginalized and less privileged members of our communities.
Davies W. Nyari
+255 688 263 695