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Published on Feb 21, 2013
The film "Open Heart", directed by Kief Davidson, has been nominated for the 2013 Academy Awards.
"Open Heart" is the story of eight Rwandan children who leave their families behind and embark on a life or death journey to receive high-risk open-heart surgery in Africa's only free-of-charge, state of the art cardiac surgery hospital, the "Salam" Centre run by the Italian NGO Emergency.
Their heart valves are damaged by rheumatic heart disease, which develops from untreated strep throat. Some of the children have only months to live.
Open-heart surgery - while invasive, dangerous, and prohibitively expensive - is the only option to repair or replace the damaged heart valves and save the children's lives.
There are an estimated 18 million people in Africa affected by rheumatic heart disease and in need of urgent surgery. Despite the fact that the disease kills 300,000 people per year, the "Salam" Centre, opened by Emergency in 2007, is the only facility in Africa capable of such high-standard cardiac surgery free of charge.
As Gino Strada, founder of Emergency and surgeon at the "Salam" Centre says in the film: "One thing is to have the same rights on paper. A completely different story is when you look into the content of what you call rights. There is something wrong if my right to health care as a European includes a CT scan and sophisticated diagnosis, while the right to be cured for an African stops at the level of a couple vaccinations and a few antibiotics."