Friendship between people will strengthen peace in the region


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Local news, 02.11.2023

Dr. Boldsaikhan with Stefanie Burri, Head of Cooperation
Dr. Boldsaikhan with Stefanie Burri, Head of Cooperation ©SDC

Their surgeries were possible thanks to the Regional Heart Examination and Surgery Project, a collaboration between the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Mongolian NGO Bundan (www.bundan.org). Through this project, children with congenital heart defects in Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia, and from North Korea and Afghanistan in the near future, are examined and get life-saving treatment, including surgery, if the child’s condition is severe.

The surgical treatment of severe heart defects is nearly impossible in Kyrgyzstan, North Korea, Afghanistan, and other countries in the region. The knowledge and capacity to offer this care are unfortunately unavailable. However, Mongolia is a country that has more than 60 years of experience and a positive record with surgeries. The governments, hospitals, and civil society organisations of Kyrgyzstan, North Korea, and many other countries in the region have been asking Mongolia’s paediatric surgical teams to carry out open heart surgeries for children with congenital heart disease. There are long waiting lists for treatment in the target countries; there are more than 8,000 children on the waiting list in Afghanistan.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation is convinced that in times of uncertainty, defined by geopolitical tensions and wars, friendship between people and nations is crucial for strengthening regional peace and security. On one hand, this project can be seen as a humanitarian aid initiative, improving the lives of children with severe health issues. However, on the other hand, this project is also an expression of regional solidarity and friendship between people and countries.

The project is headed by cardiologist Dr. Boldsaikhan Bundan. He is working with an amazing and dedicated team. Putting in extra effort to build the capacity of cardiologists and local medical professionals wherever they work is an integral part of their mission. Recently, we followed the treatment of two children from Kyrgyzstan. They underwent successful open-heart surgeries in Mongolia, marking the promising beginning of a new collaborative journey.

SDC collaborates with Bundan NGO on their Heart Never Forgets initiative

The new regional initiative goes back to two previous smaller collaborations. From 2022 to 2023, SDC supported Bundan NGO with 40,000 CHF. With these funds, Bundan NGO travelled to more than 15 of Mongolia’s 21 provinces and carried out heart examinations for over 1,460 children and 1,435 adults, providing a total of 2,900 examinations. In addition, 277 children underwent successful heart surgeries, bringing happiness back to the children, their parents, and siblings.

Reaching out to the reindeer herding community

As part of the Regional Heart Examination and Surgery Project, the team of Mongolian cardiologists travelled to the north of the country in October. During the six-day trip in the taiga, Bundan NGO travelled 2,450 km. An SDC team joined the doctors to witness the team’s extraordinary work. During the mission, Bundan NGO doctors examined over 390 children and adults. Twenty-three children were diagnosed as requiring heart surgery, and three children with dangerous health conditions were brought back to Ulaanbaatar, where they underwent successful surgeries.

Some of the most needed examinations were carried out in the land of reindeer herders, home to around 400 Tsaatan, nomadic reindeer herders living in the remote northern taiga of Mongolia. This tiny ethnic group usually settles down in deep forests at an altitude of 1,800 m above sea level, where they can avoid the frigid winds. During winter, reindeer herders remain in one area for a month at the longest and then move on to find better pastures for their reindeer, especially when wolves are nearby. 

Cardiologists from Bundan NGO and the SDC team travelled to the winter camp of a Tsaatan community. Much-needed heart examinations were carried out. Dr. Boldsaikhan explained that due to their reindeer herding lifestyle, it is very difficult for Tsaatan people to travel to province centres, not to mention the capital city, for health check-ups. Dr. Boldsaikhan and his team travelled to them to carry out health check-ups. The SDC team was deeply impressed by their work and would like to express gratitude and congratulations for their ongoing commitment and heart for children!

For more information, please visit the Bundan NGO website