Congenital heart disease is a serious problem facing thousands of Arab children in the Middle East. Each year, hundreds of babies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are born with this life-threatening disease. In Iraq, thousands of babies are born with heart disease each year. Unfortunately for these sick children, there was no local pediatric cardiac surgery center in either Palestine or Iraq to provide them the treatment they needed to live a normal life and a majority of these babies would needlessly die due to the lack of a pediatric cardiac surgery center.
To address this problem, in 1998 the PCRF launched a “Healing Hearts” campaign to send teams of volunteer doctors and nurses to provide expert surgical treatment for sick children, as well as training for the local staff. Since then, the PCRF has sent dozens of volunteer missions to the West Bank and Gaza to provide life-saving open-heart surgery for sick and dying Palestinian babies, as well as teams that treat adults with heart conditions.
In 2003, the PCRF established The International Palestinian Cardiac Relief Organization (IPCRO) in coordination with many of the international volunteers who we have worked with extensively in providing adult and pediatric cardiac surgery in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The purpose of IPCRO is to serve as the main consulting arm of the PCRF to build the first and only pediatric cardiac surgery program in Palestine.
In 2006, The PCRF opened a brand new, fully-equipped pediatric ICU in Makassed Hospital on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. This is the only pediatric ICU in all of Palestine. The PCRF will continually bring medical teams to work in the new ICU to both treat patients and train the local staff. The hope is that one day the local medical staff will be trained and equipped enough to perform these life-saving surgeries unassisted.
In addition to sending volunteer teams to work in the Middle East in cardiac surgery, the PCRF has also located and sponsored open-heart surgery for hundreds of Arab children by sending them outside for surgery. The objective of this campaign is to provide life saving surgery on the short-term, and to help build a working pediatric cardiac surgery program on the ground there by working with local Ministries of Health to develop a long-term program to deal the problem of congenital heart disease so eventually children with heart disease can treat themselves.