07 Jan 2010

Valvular Heart Disease Update

Your Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.

It is a great pleasure to be here in one of Egypt's most magnificent cities. I have often been told that Aswan, with its striking natural beauty, traditional heritage and ancient culture, is where the Nile is at its most beautiful and I am excited to finally have the opportunity to see it for myself.

Many years ago, this area was considered the frontier of ancient Egypt. Today, this meeting is on the frontier of medical science.

There has never been a more thrilling time to be a medical scientist.

Advanced technologies, thorough medical research and innovative techniques have opened up a world of discovery.

The remarkable progress in recent decades did not just occur.

It has come about by vigilant observations and clinical studies conducted by scientists working at hospitals, research institutes and universities around the world.

In paediatric cardiology, the last 25 years have seen many developments, all of which have stemmed from the advancements that have been produced by research.

Today, doctors can observe and monitor the status of the developing fetus inside the mother's womb.

Today, doctors working in highly specialized hospital units are saving premature infants that could never be saved in the past.

In developing countries, where transportation and medicine are not easily attainable, doctors have now developed techniques to repair - not replace - damaged rheumatic heart valves.

The progress that we have seen could not have happened without adequate funding. Investments in medical research are an investment in the future. The payoff comes in lives saved and knowledge gained.

Many efforts have been made, but much more needs to be done as we acquire more experience and develop better relationships with international groups to spread the benefits of medical research as widely as possible.

This is why I stand before you this morning.

I hope that the next few days will not only inspire and motivate each and every one of you but also stimulate global action.

There is much to be gained from sharing best practices and data. The exchange of ideas between cultures and countries around the globe is vital for the health and well being of the world.

Last summer, I had the pleasure of visiting a number of hospitals across Europe to increase awareness and promote research, investment and training in the field of paediatric cardiology.

The aim behind this fact-finding initiative was to also assist in the development of the Al Jalila Children's Speciality Hospital in Dubai, the first dedicated children's hospital in the United Arab Emirates and soon to be home to centres of excellence for cardiology, oncology, neurology and mental health.

Throughout each of these visits, we discussed best practices in patient care, the fundamental importance of research initiatives and first-rate medical education as a means to achieve excellence in paediatric healthcare services.

In 2003, President Nelson Mandela and the Sisulu family created the Walter Sisulu Paediatric Cardiac Centre for Africa, a charity organisation based in Johannesburg that facilitates life-saving heart surgery for children who suffer from congenital heart conditions, as a living legacy to a man who not only served their country but was also a champion of the youth.

In the last two years, in an effort to raise awareness for paediatric cardiology in Africa, I was fortunate enough to visit the Centre a number of times and was pleased to see that it continues to thrive.

The patients there are living proof of the power of shared knowledge.

Today marks a special occasion for me.

I was so deeply touched when Sir Magdi Yacoub graciously offered to name the paediatric unit at the Aswan Heart Centre after my daughter, Al Jalila.

I remember when I was just three years old, my father, His Majesty the Late King Hussein, named the only public hospital in Aqaba, Jordan after me, in hope that I would one day carry forward the legacy of both my parents to serve the people of my region and beyond.

With the Sheikha Al Jalila Paediatric Unit at Aswan Heart Centre, the recently opened Sheikha Al Jalila House for the WSPCCA and the Al Jalila Children's Speciality Hospital, the same holds true for Al Jalila.

One day, I hope to see Her working with all of your children. And your children's children.

Humanity only ever achieved anything hand in hand.

Miles apart from one another, each of these organisations, whether in Egypt, South Africa or the United Arab Emirates, are a part of a triangle of knowledge, capitalizing on the research, education and innovation that stems from within.

This triangle also represents an element of hope for this part of the world.

Look at how far we have come.

Together, I strongly believe we can achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals, eight clearly defined targets for reducing hunger, poverty and their byproducts. One of those goals is to reduce the mortality rate among children under five by two-thirds.

With a 2015 deadline to reach these goals, it is time to reaffirm our commitment and remind the leaders of the world of the promise they made.

The impatience of these children - their fight to live normal, healthy lives - should continue to motivate us - every day.

Fifteen million children die each year from potentially treatable or preventable cardiac diseases.

Somewhere in the world, every minute of every day, two babies are born with heart defects.

In developing countries, thousands are left untreated. Most of them will die simply because they live in poor countries that do not have suitable medical facilities.

The time to act is now.

We need to educate and train more.

We need to foster a spirit of concern.

And we need to create a sense of community.

Together, we can and will make a difference.

Every sick child has a story and parents who have dreams for that child's future.

It is up to us to guarantee them the highest standards of clinical care in the most suitable and caring settings.

My father once said, `The only real victories are those that protect human life'.

We need to win this fight to celebrate another victory for humanity. We must do our part as world citizens and protect the future of our world.

One life at a time.

One heart at a time.

I share everyone's belief that children are the most precious gifts and we must continue to nurture and provide every single one of them with a life full of laughter, hope and love.

None of us have the capacity to individually solve the problems of the world, but we can help find solutions and provide hope to all the young hearts that desperately need our help.

The work that we do now and the lives that we touch today will be our legacy...a gift from one generation to the next.

2010 begins not only a new year, but also a new decade at the start of a new millennium. For many, including myself, it holds the promise of being a turn-around year.

May this year and the decades that follow it, mark a time of good health, peace and happiness in the world.

Thank you.