Erri & Gino…

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Strada: “In Africa only Emergency provides quality cardiac surgery for free. Civilized countries don’t lift a finger”

Fund raising in Brussels to buy cardiac valves to send to the hospital in Sudan.

Erri De Luca: “There blood doesn’t scream; it’s thankful. It saves lives that were about to be thrown out”

Erri De Luca

Erri De Luca

For Erri De Luca what remains above all is “the smell of blood.” From that visit to the hospital in Khartoum in Sudan, this is what first comes to mind: the moment in which Gino Strada insisted he enter the operating room with him to watch an open heart surgery and he smelled it for the first time. An “age-old and unknown” smell, accounts the writer in his style, “the same smell from 1900, the century in which the largest amount of human blood was lost.” But in Khartoum, continues De Luca, “the blood didn’t scream: it smiled and was thankful because a restitution occurred –lives that were about to be thrown out.”

18,000 people’s lives are at risk of being thrown out, mostly children, who in Africa continue to suffer cardiac disease. The main cause of the pathology is lack of preventative care which would stop early symptoms of rheumatic fever. So the only chance of saving becomes substituting the cardiac valve with surgery. But these valves cost and until recently hospitals capable of this type of operation didn’t exist in Africa.

Emergency took care of the hospital and opened the center “Salam” in 2007; it is still the only hospital on the continent to offer high-quality cardiac surgery for free and because of this in the last few years has become the destination for patients of more than 23 different countries. As far as the artificial valves go however, we must provide them. This is required of Prima Persona, a political and cultural association headed by the VP of the European Parliament, Gianni Pittella, who decided to launch a fundraiser to purchase and send the valves to the Salam hospital.

 “We have already collected some but we will proceed with the campaign” requested Pittella, presenting the initiative to the European Parliament today. “Every 2-3 thousand Euro we can buy a valve and every valve is a life” he reminds us. In Khartoum the Euro MP went in person. “The reality we saw is beyond any stretch of the imagination – he accounts – 300,000 people live there in tents made with mud in the midst of excrements, trash and animals with a temperature that exceeds 50-60 degrees. They are aided by only one cardio surgery hospital in all of Africa.” Up against this “we cannot be silent.” For this, Pittella adds, Gino Strada and his team’s work is important; “not only does it save human lives but it also bears witness to the reality that others don’t want or pretend not to see.”

The founder of Emergency is in Sudan actually working at the Salam center but is able to participate in the conference via telephone. “This center is a little jewel – he says – because it is a way to show how things work in Africa with excellent results and with even fewer resources than one would think necessary.” In other words, the model is established; “whoever wants can follow it,” invites Strada, confessing: “I find it scandalous and unacceptable that

Gino STrada

Gino STrada

civilized countries accept that only one hospital exists in Africa where one can obtain this type of care.” “10 must come to light- Strada insists.” A plea addressed in a strong and clear method in spite of being via telephone from a distance, “for Europe Nobel for Peace.”  

Letizia Pascale 

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