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At the annual meeting of the West African College of Surgeons (WACS) in Dakar, Senegal in January 1998, Professor Kane Boubacar, M.D. from Nouakchott Mauritania approached A. Thomas Pezzella, M.D. of the International Children's Heart Fund (ICHF) regarding starting a new open-heart program in his country. A series of letters and correspondence followed. Finally, in January 2001 at the WACS meeting in Nouakchott, Mauritania a definitive agreement was reached after surveying the new hospital and the operating room and ICU facilities. A formal business plan was presented by the ICHF and accepted by Professor Boubacar, the newly appointed administrator of the hospital. A 20-foot container with necessary equipment and supplies arrived 'in September of 2002. Finally, from November 1- 10 2002, the International Children's Heart Fund in collaboration with the World Heart Foundation and Save a Child's Heart began the program. The first successful open-heart operation in Mauritania took place November 5, 2002. Meetings at that time with the President of Mauritania, the Minister of health, a representative of World Heart Foundation, local cardiologists, and involved hospital medical and non-medical staff, along with independent support of the American, Israeli, and French embassies culminated in additional financial support to build a cardiovascular center at CZ hospital.
Subsequent plans were made to recruit the lead cardiac surgeon, and arrange for further recruitment and training of a Mauritanian open-heart surgery team. At the same time, the cardiac center will be built and equipped with invasive and non-invasive, diagnostic, and interventional capability.
A coordinated effort will be made to advance the entire spectrum of health care for cardiac related problems, and diseases with emphasis on both preventive and curative aspects.
Foreign assistance will be expanded until such time as the Mauritanian team is fully functional and independent. Thereafter, a continued consultative and supportive role will be maintained.
All involved with this project should be congratulated and continued support should be continued to maintain a quantity and quality of care for all Mauritanian citizens. With government, corporate, individual, and patient support this project will be successful. Hopefully, a successful program will serve as a model for the region, and encourage other neighboring countries to embark on a similar initiative.
Since 2002, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, France, and Saudi Arabia have participated in the program. Professor Jean Bachet and his team from Paris, France have made several trips to develop and expand the program. Training of personnel in these other African Countries demonstrates the power and value of collaborative efforts.
Recently Dr Zohair Y. Al-Halees M.D. from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has made periodic team visits to perform cardiac surgery. Dr Mohammad Ly, a native from Mauritania, is planning further initiatives to develop cardiac surgery in Mauritania.