Zambia is a third world landlocked country in Southern Africa with a population of about 12 million. Over 60% of the population lives in poverty, earning less than $1 a day. In Lusaka, the capital city is the University Teaching Hospital (UTH), Zambia's largest hospital that provides a wide range of tertiary health services. Despite this, the lack of adequate human and medical resources, greatly strains and limits the capacity of the services provided and makes it difficult for the institution to provide other services. One of the services lacking altogether is that of cardiac (heart) surgery. There is no Cardiothoracic Surgeon or service in Zambia.
Rheumatic heart disease is a common heart problem in Zambia. Globally there are 15.6 million people with Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) and 230,000 deaths per year as a result. The incidence in Zambia is 12.6/1000 according to WHO and it accounts for 60% of cardiac cases. It is the commonest cause of cardiac disease and death in young adults in Zambia.
There are currently over 300 adults patients on the waiting list and an undisclosed number of paediatric patients. Until recently, only 50 such Zambian patients have had their operation. And of these, most have either been sponsored by charities and/or other well wishers and some by the government when it could afford it. They are usually sent abroad but a few were operated on at UTH by visiting cardiac surgeons under difficult operating conditions.
'Mutima' means 'Heart' in some of the local languages in Zambia as well as in other Southern and Central African countries. The Mutima project is a project by volunteers (mostly medical) based in New Zealand with the following aims to be carried out over the next five years:
- Support a cardiac surgical team from New Zealand to perform 100 life-saving heart operations on young underprivileged Zambian patients at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Lusaka,
- Work towards the development of a sustainable local infrastructure at UTH,
- Facilitate the establishment of a dedicated cardiac surgery unit for Zambia, and
- Provide future training opportunities for Zambian medical staff.
On the 21st March 2011, a team of over 30 medical personnel from New Zealand, Ireland and South Africa, led by Harsh Singh a Cardiothoracic Surgeon, performed the first of what seven successful cardiac operations in Lusaka. This was the first of an intended five missions to be conducted annually.
The Mutima Charitable Trust was formed on May 2009 to facilitate amongst other things, fundraising for and manage the project. It's trustees include Cardiac Surgeon Harsh Singh, Munanga Mwandila a Zambian Doctor working in New Zealand, Pricsilla Wildbore a Cardiothoracic Fellow, Kirstin Walsh a Cardiac Theatre nurse, Gordon Davies the former CEO of CDHB, Tess Wethey a Lawyer and Gilbert Enoka the General Manager of Harcourts International and All Blacks mental skills coach.
Since then, the project has acquired a wealth of knowledge on doing Cardiac work in Zambia.