First child refugees have surgery in operation room set up by Edinburgh charity

The first child refugees have undergone surgery in a bespoke operating room set up by an Edinburgh-based charity.

Procedures were carried out on boys aged six and 10 suffering from hernias in the centre erected in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya the world’s largest displaced persons camp, which is home to some 40,000 children.

The operating room is expected to care for up to 1,000 children annually, said Kids Operating Room (KidsOR).

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It will be led by Kenyan paediatric surgeon, Neema Kaseje, who said: “There is a huge and desperate need for a paediatric surgery facility at this camp, and in many more camps around the world.

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“I am proud that KidsOR have pledged to get children in Kakuma access to the safe surgery they so badly need.

“Usually in these settings you would find there isn’t any equipment for children or infrastructure that is adapted to children, therefore providing surgical services for children in these settings is very difficult.

“It’s great that KidsOR has taken the lead in this area and this could actually serve as a model for other humanitarian contexts beyond Africa.”

Dr Neema Kaseje (right) and a surgical team working in a KidsOR operating room.Dr Neema Kaseje (right) and a surgical team working in a KidsOR operating room.
Dr Neema Kaseje (right) and a surgical team working in a KidsOR operating room.

More than 3,000 parts for the site were designed, sourced and shipped from KidsOR’s Dundee warehouse in December last year, but pandemic delays and the Suez canal blockage caused a hold-up of the life-saving equipment, the charity said.

Garreth Wood, co-founder of KidsOR, said: “This operating room will save and transform the lives of children and their families in desperate and uncertain circumstances.

“I’m proud of the efforts of our teams, in the UK and Africa for pulling together and making this incredible feat a reality – and I’m delighted that Neema is able to start work so quickly to meet the surgical needs of children within the camp.”

Originally founded in 1992 for people fleeing war in Sudan, Kakuma is now the largest refugee camp in the world with a population of around 190,000, slightly larger than the population of Dundee, from more than 20 nationalities, said KidsOR.

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KidsOR said the Kakuma project will “set the groundwork to build capacity for nine additional children’s operating rooms in the coming years.”

By 2030, it expects to have set up 120 children’s operating rooms across Africa, “providing essential surgery to over 635,000 children and saving thousands of lives”.

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