Charity on track to ship 30 paediatric operating rooms to Africa this year

A health charity is on track to ship everything needed for 30 fully-equipped paediatric operating rooms to Africa this year.

Kids Operating Room (KidsOR) works directly with local surgeons and their teams to transform hospital spaces into dedicated operating rooms for children’s surgery.

It is focusing efforts on reaching countries with no, or critically low, provision for paediatric surgery, where children die from treatable conditions such as appendicitis or complications following broken bones.

Staff at its Dundee depot work to put together the rooms, which typically feature more than 3,000 items and are individually designed by biomedical engineers working with colleagues abroad to ensure each aspect will meet the long-term needs of local surgeons.

Staff at the Dundee depot prepare the equipment that will be shipped
Staff at the Dundee depot prepare the equipment that will be shipped (KidsOR/PA)

In recent months containers of equipment have been delivered to countries including Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Zambia and Nigeria.

Dave Tipping, director of global operations and head of the Dundee warehouse and lab, said: “The team here is phenomenally committed. We have a singular focus on providing extensively researched and tested rooms that will provide maximum benefit to the recipient hospital, its surgical teams, and thousands of – often desperate – families.

“We’ve had to adapt considerably over the past 15 months, with it being much harder, or even impossible to get out to the locations where the projects are being delivered.

“Everything we do is around providing a sustainable solution. We aren’t building Operating Rooms with specialist equipment that relies on our long-term support.

“We’re here to ensure surgeons in the African continent, as well as those in countries we’ve worked in previously in South America, are able to utilise each life-saving and life-changing item for the long-term.”

The charity said that around two billion children around the world lack access to safe surgery and that every year more children die from not getting the surgery they need than from Malaria, HIV and TB combined.

KidsOR was founded by Nicola and Garreth Wood in 2018 and aims to install 120 paediatric operating rooms across Africa by 2030.

Nicola Wood said: “Recent months have had a galvanising effect on our team. We’ve now given more than 36,000 children access to life-changing or life-saving care.

“Globally more children die from conditions easily treated through surgery, than from HIV, malaria and TB combined. We’re helping change that by providing the equipment and training for paediatric surgery.

“Yet there is still so much to do – and we won’t stop until we achieve our mission – a world where every child has equal access to safe surgery. Each container leaving our Dundee hub is a step closer.”

The focus is not purely clinical – KidsOR also ensures that its signature colourful animals adorn the walls of each of the operating rooms it installs to help children to feel calm and reassured as they go into surgery.

The charity, which has bases in Edinburgh, Dundee and Nairobi, said that more than 36,000 children have accessed life-changing or life-saving care through KidsOR’s work.

It also funds the training of surgeons and anaesthesia providers and works with National Ministries of Health to develop sustainable healthcare services.