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Conjoined Twin Operation Highlights Zim's Health Care Capacity

Agnes Mongoro-Chitiyo - mother of conjoined twins Kupakashe and Tapiwanashe

The recent successful operation on conjoined twins in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, has shone a light of a different kind on the country, mostly in the news for its political and economic turmoil.

A team of 50 Zimbabwean doctors, nurses and others in the health profession successfully separated twin boys Kupakwashe and Tapiwanashe Chitigo, who were born in April in Murehwa, Mashonaland East province, in an operation that lasted eight hours.

The team of doctors said the most delicate part of the operation was on the liver, which had to be cut into two to ensure that both boys, were left with part of the organ.

While out of surgery, doctors warn the twins, who were joined on the lower chest and upper abdomen, were still vulnerable to deadly infections.

Zimbabwe’s government has hailed the operation, which took place at Harare Hospital, a major milestone, especially given the reported poor state of its health delivery system, and exodus of medical professionals.

Zimbabwe’s health sector has been especially hard hit by brain-drain and lack of funding over the past 14 years, due to the country’s worsening economic and political climate.

Previously, Zimbabwean doctors had been referring such complicated cases to other countries. In 2009, Canadian doctors operated two conjoined Zimbabwean twins flown to that country for life-saving surgery. Experts said such twins are rare, occurring in about one out of every 200,000 live births.

The head of the team that separated the twins, Dr. Bothwell Mbuwayesango and Deputy Minister of Health and Child Welfare Dr. Paul Chimedza, both trained at the University of Zimbabwe, said the success of the operation marks a significant turn for the country.

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