Congenital heart diseases are among the most frequent congenital malformations and the first cause of death among all congenital diseases. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), up until 1970 the first causes of mortality in infancy were infectious diseases.
As a result of the intensive worldwide campaign against infectious diseases, today perinatal diseases hold the unfortunate record and account for 69% of infant deaths and of these, 30% is represented by congenital heart diseases. It is estimated that there are more than 6 million children suffering from heart disease worldwide. Each year, 1 million children are born with congenital heart diseases, of which only 200 000 have access to proper care. The remaining 800 000 do not have any hope as they are born in under-developed countries lacking doctors, medical materials, nurses, technicians, education and adequate hospital structures. As a consequence, today, in the world, there are 2 to 4 million children awaiting cardiac surgery or lifesaving interventions.
“The first touching moment was when I entered a small room and saw hundreds of mothers and fathers with their babies in their arms, literally handing them over to the doctors and even to me, with hope and prayers in their eyes. They entrusted us with their most precious belonging and I will never forget this image."
Claudia Florio Ferrari - account of the first mission
In the countries represented by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) the situation is definitely better as the majority of the ESC National Cardiological Societies are able to offer adequate treatment for congenital heart disease with a mean ratio of 1000 operations per 1 000 000 inhabitants which is considered to be satisfactory.
However, this is not true for those ESC countries where there is a devastating ratio of 0-100 operations per 1 000 000 inhabitants for congenital heart disease. This clearly indicates that interventions for congenital heart disease have never been performed! It follows that the pathology is numerically and socially relevant, particularly as it refers to children. It is a curable disease where there are adequate health care systems. However, this is not the case in every ESC member country. This is a need and a priority that our society should directly or indirectly try to accomplish.