Thousands of Vietnamese children living with congenital heart disease, the most common type of birth defect that can lead to death, are awaiting social support to regain control over their lives.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the incidence of congenital heart disease in the general population is 0.8 percent.

General statistics collected from Vietnamese localities showed that at the end of 2012, the country has nearly 17,800 children born with a heart anomaly, with more than 5,000 undergoing surgery.

Thousands of new cases are discovered every year while only 2,000-2,500 children receive surgery annually on average.

The figures indicate that it currently takes five to six years to bring healthy hearts to child heart patients.
Of the children with the disease, 38.8 percent are under-six years old while 58.8 percent aged between six and 15 belong to poor families or those living near the poverty line.

Nguyen Trong An, deputy head of the Child Care and Protection Department under the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs, blamed the high expense of each surgery - about 40 million VND (1,880 USD), although it has been known to rise as high as 100 million VND.

Although regulations say children under the age of six with health insurance get free healthcare, the Health Insurance Fund has cover for only 55 percent of the total cost.

Meanwhile, children above six years old can hold health insurance cards and receive 80 percent support of hospital fees, unlisted drugs and expenditures bump up the cost further still, leaving poor families and those living near the poverty line unable to pay surgical costs for their children.

He attributed the high cost to the scarcity of qualified surgeons and medical facilities in Vietnam, adding that according to the international standards, each million people needs one surgical centre for congenital heart disease. It means that Vietnam is thirsty for about 80 centres to fulfill the demand of its 90 million people.

However, the country in fact has only 19 heart surgical centres nationwide, he said, adding that not all of them are able to conduct surgeries of diagnosed congenital heart defects.

Over the past time, many charitable and humanitarian organisations have channelled support to poor children born with heart failure.

The Ho Chi Minh City Sponsoring Association for Poor Patients has financed 70 percent of surgical fees for patients aged between six and 16.

Since its inception five years ago, the “Heart for Kids” programme jointly launched by Vietnam Television, the military-run telecom group, Viettel, and East Meets West have mobilised nearly 90 billion VND from 7,000 individuals and organisations to help nearly 2,000 children.

Over the past decade, sponsoring funds for Vietnamese children from central to grassroots levels have gathered hundreds of billions of Vietnam dong in support of poor children with congenital heart disease.

Joining the endeavours, the Sunny Korea, a non-governmental organisation of the Republic of Korea (RoK), will provide 17 million USD fund to heart surgeries designed for Vietnamese children in the RoK during the period of 2014-2020 under a memorandum of understanding recently inked by the orgnisation and the Vietnam Children Sponsoring Fund.

Notably, the Prime Minister on October 4 approved a decision on the policy to support surgeries of congenital heart anomaly.

Accordingly, almost all children with heart disease who are born to poor families or those living near the poverty line can receive free surgery and support for accommodation and travelling during the treatment.
With the great effort of the whole society, children with congenital heart anomaly are expected to enjoy a normal life like their peers.-VNA