FC Barcelona, through their partnership with UNICEF have aided the development of a international quality standards laboratory to test blood samples from infants exposed to HIV infection in Swaziland.
The new facility, situated at the Mbabane Government Hospital in Swaziland, is equipped with high-tech ‘polymerase chain reaction’ machines, which allow the Ministry of Health to test blood samples of infants locally. It has the capacity to test nearly 100 per cent of blood samples collected from infants across the country.
Previously, these samples were sent to South African laboratories. The new early infant diagnosis equipment decreases the cost and waiting period for the results of the tests from 18 to 3 days, thus preventing HIV-related child deaths due to early diagnosis as well as precious funds. The facility is fully operated and managed by a team of Swazi laboratory personnel who received training through support from FC Barcelona, also known as Barça.
Here are some excerpts from UNICEF’s report:
Swazi Minister of Health Benedict Xaba praised FC Barcelona for the donation at a formal handover of the equipment. He said his ministry would like to frame a Barça replica jersey and hang it inside the Mbabane lab “so that future generations, and the children whose lives would have been saved by this equipment, would recognize the kind work done by the team.” Then, Mr. Xaba waved a Barça shirt and chanted: “Phambili nge Barca phambili! Phambili nga Messi phambili! Phambili nga Iniesta phambili!” (Translation: “Forward Barça, forward! Forward Messi, forward! Forward Iniesta, forward!)
Dr. Nida Hailu, Chief Executive Officer of the Baylor Clinic, Swaziland’s only paediatric AIDS centre, believes the FC Barcelona-funded equipment will save many young lives. “Previosuly, our patients would wait a long time for the results to come back from South Africa” he recalled. “By the time the results are back, a child would have been three months old and treatment would have been delayed.” This created a huge backlog, which saw many patients falling through the cracks because of the long wait, noted Dr. Hailu. “Now, results are back in no time, which enables us to admit those infants who are infected into [anti-retroviral treatment] sooner,” he added.
UNICEF Representative in Swaziland Dr. Jama Gulaid hailed FC Barcelona for the support it gives to Swazi children. This assistance is part of the global FC Barcelona-UNICEF partnership for children, signed in 2006. Since inception, this partnership has yielded considerable benefits for children in Swaziland, the first country to receive a significant portion of the €1.5 million in funding that FC Barcelona donates annually to UNICEF. Apart from the HIV diagnosis equipment, Swaziland has received funds from Barça for sports equipment in 200 schools and safe water for 25 schools in drought-prone areas.