Transforming Lives and Restoring Hope: Free Surgeries for Adenotonsillectomy and Grommets
By Vivian Mugarisi
Harare, Zimbabwe - In yet another heartwarming initiative, the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) provided free surgeries for adenotonsillectomy and grommets (Adenoids, Tonsils & Minor Ear Operations) from 16-20 October 2023, transforming the lives of 140 children in Zimbabwe. This compassionate endeavor supported by the World Health Organization with funding from the Government of Japan, has not only alleviated the burden of medical expenses to families, but has also brought hope and relief to those suffering from chronic ear and throat conditions. The surgical camp was targeting children between 2 – 12 years.
For children suffering from tonsilitis, chronic ear infections or hearing loss, the world can be a daunting place. One such child, Tinotenda Nhemere (6), has been struggling with chronic tonsillitis since birth. The constant pain, difficulty in swallowing, and recurrent infections had taken a toll on her physical and emotional well-being. However, after undergoing a free adenotonsillectomy, her life changed dramatically. Tino, as they call her, now enjoys meals without discomfort, sleeps peacefully through the night, and has regained her energy and zest for life.
A month after the surgery, Tino’s mother, 30-year-old Letwin Mucheyi, excitedly recounts how her child’s newfound ability to function normally has rekindled her love for learning and brought back her infectious laughter.
“My child had tonsils issues and I have been trying to get help since the day she was diagnosed. We could not raise the required funds and this free surgery was our answered prayer,” said the ecstatic Letwin.
During the surgical camp, specialist surgeons, anesthetists and other relevant health workers from the public and private sector dedicated a week to provide the surgery to as many patients as possible. Dr Ruvimbo Nzvenge, an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist noted that the provision of free surgeries for adenotonsillectomy and grommets has alleviated the burden on healthcare facilities and reduced the long waiting lists for surgeries.
“By providing specialized pediatric surgical services during a dedicated period, we know more children can access the vital life-changing surgical care and we hope to have and support more camps like these ones,” she said.
The free surgeries are being offered as part of WHO pioneer programme aimed at strengthening access to safe, timely and affordable surgical, obstetric and anesthesia services in Zimbabwe. This is in line with the universal health coverage goal of ensuring everyone everywhere has access to timely medical interventions without suffering financial difficulties. The Government of Japan has committed a grant of US$633 975.00, with the funding being used to implement the National Surgical Obstetrics and Anesthesia Strategy (2022 – 2025) launched in September 2022. To date, the programme has provided over 240 free surgeries to Zimbabwean children, with 101 of these having received hernia repairs in March 2023. At least 150 patients are set to receive free surgeries in an upcoming camp at Victoria Falls Hospital in December 2023.
The programme is also offering capacity building, training and mentorship of surgical health workers, equipping health facilities with minor and major theatre equipment, ensuring continuity in service provision. Following this camp, more children will continue receiving free surgeries on routine clinic days at Sally Mugabe Hospital until end of December 2023.
“WHO is proud to be part of this initiative. Our role is ensuring that the surgeries are conducted safely and according to established guidelines. We are looking forward to more collaborations and applaud the work by MoHCC to make surgical services available to children in line with universal health coverage goal. This is what health for all is all about,” said Dr Thenjiwe Sisimayi, WHO Zimbabwe Technical Officer, SDG3 GAP.
Adenoids are collections of lymphoid tissue where the nasal passages connect with the throat. They help defend the body against infection by trapping bacteria and viruses entering through the throat and by producing antibodies. Chronic infections of the adenoids can affect other areas such as the eustachian tube–the passage between the back of the nose and the inside of the ear. This can lead to frequent ear infections and buildup of fluid in the middle ear that may cause temporary hearing loss.