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Gift of Life International

Healing little hearts in Uganda

The Gift of Life International initiative to develop sustainable pediatric cardiac programs in emerging countries began at the Uganda Heart Institute (UHI) in 2009. Since then, we have upgraded essential equipment, facilitated training by world-class healthcare professionals, installed a telemedicine system and provided supplemental supplies and medicines to support reliable and sustainable surgeries and catheterizations at UHI. We have also worked to engage the UHI Hospital Administration and the Ugandan Ministry of Health who now annually support this program.
The pediatric cardiac program at the Uganda Heart Institute achieved the status of being a Gift of Life International Legacy Program in 2018. Ugandan healthcare professionals are now providing care to children with heart disease on a sustainable basis under the leadership of Lead Surgeon, Dr. Michael Oketcho. Additionally, we have partnered with Dr. Craig Sable and the Children’s National Health System in Washington, DC to address the Rheumatic Heart Disease(RHD) crisis in Uganda. More than 100,000 children have been screened for RHD and over 1,000 of these children receive monthly penicillin injections to prevent advanced RHD.

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Stories from Uganda.

Each child we save is another chapter in our story of how regular people, driven by passion, make a difference in the world. These are the stories of Uganda children who have been given a new chance at life. These are the stories that inspire us at Gift of Life International.

Stories from Uganda

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Program Development

2009 – Uganda is selected as the 1st Core Program for Gift of Life International

In 2009, Gift of Life International sponsored an international conference in Kampala, Uganda which resulted in a strategic plan to develop a sustainable pediatric cardiac program at the Uganda Heart Institute – the first Gift of Life International Core Program. Only 9 cardiac interventions had been completed at the Uganda Heart Institute in 2008 with an immense waitlist of children in need of care.
The Our Hearts are in Uganda Program saw 66 children treated throughout our global network across 13 countries at 25 affiliated hospitals to raise awareness of the need for a program in Uganda. We created Gift of Life Uganda to support the ongoing efforts of the healthcare professionals at the Uganda Heart Institute

2012 – MOU Signed with Ugandan Government

In February 2012, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed outlining the commitment and responsibilities of the Ugandan Government, The Uganda Heart Institute and Gift of Life International as part of the strategic development of this Core Program. The Ugandan Government committed to allocating $500,000 per year to operate a minimum of 100 children at UHI annually.

2013 – Essential Equipment Acquisition

In 2013 $300,000 of state-of-the-art equipment was donated to the program for diagnosis and treatment of patients. A Telemedicine system was installed at UHI to enhance training, live case discussion, live distance education and more. The Ugandan Government purchased and installed a state-of-the-art bi-plane catheterization lab at the Uganda Heart Institute and the first PDA Device Closure was successfully completed in the Cath Lab.

2014 – RHD Research and Treatment Begins

Gift of Life International and our Global Network of Caring expanded our partnership with Dr. Craig Sable from Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C. to support research and treatment of children with Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD). 12,000 children screened for RHD.

2018 – Uganda becomes a Legacy Program

In 2018 all of the equipment in the operating theater and ICU at the Uganda Heart Institute was upgraded and a dedicated pediatric cardiac ICU was put in place. The Ugandan pediatric cardiac team was fully trained through mentorship from world-class visiting teams and additional training through the telemedicine system. The UHI Hospital Administration and Ugandan Ministry of Health were both engaged and supportive of the program and the Ugandan team were operating 175 children annually on a sustainable basis with a mortality rate of less than 5% and increased complexity of cases.

2020 – Ground-breaking Progress on the Treatment of Children with RHD

2020 saw the culmination of 100,000 children screened for RHD. 1,000 of those children were diagnosed and received monthly penicillin injections to prevent the progression of the disease. The Ugandan Pediatric Cardiac Team at UHI is now able to operate on children with CHD and advanced RHD. Throughout the global pandemic there was no interruption in the monthly penicillin injections for children with RHD and the team at UHI continued to operate on 48 children with CHD despite strict lockdowns.

2024 – Building Capacity for Pediatric Cardiac Care at UHI

Surgeries and Catheterizations for children with CHD and RHD continue to be conducted on a sustainable basis by the local pediatric cardiac team at UHI. More than 150 children are treated annually for congenital heart defects and more than 1,000 children are treated annually for rheumatic heart defects.
Training continues for the treatment of children with advanced RHD and a larger state-of-the-art ICU unit is in place at UHI (donated by the Hungarian Government) to increase capacity and further improve patient outcomes.

Building a Legacy Program in Uganda

Learn more about our work in Uganda

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“Gift of Life International helped to empower us to run the program on our own. Being able to give a child back their life is a tremendous privilege and brings a sense of joy that you cannot measure.”

~ Dr. Michael Oketcho Chief of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Uganda Heart Institute

Our Impact in Uganda since 2009.


Ugandan Children Treated


Million Invested


Training Visits

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