, NAIROBI, May 24 – Over 20,000 participants attended this year’s Mater Heart Run 2008 flagged off by former Vice President Moody Awori at the Nyayo National Stadium Saturday morning.
The participants increased by over 30 percent from the 15,000 who graced the event last year.
The annual event is organised by Mater Hospital to help ailing children from poor families undergo lifesaving heart operations that they could otherwise not afford on their own.
The operations are performed at the Mater Hospital by visiting cardiac surgeons and cardiologists from Britain, the Netherlands and in conjunction with their Kenyan counterparts who offer their services free of charge.
Mater Hospital Chief Executive Officer Dr John Muriithi said: "A total of Sh30 million is targeted from this event to assist about 150 patients who need life-saving heart surgery."
This was the fifth year Mater Heart Run is raising funds to assist those in need of surgery from heart diseases.
On his part, Awori said that about 0.1 percent of children born each day suffer from heart diseases.
"Out of every 10,000 children born everyday, 12 children have heart problems," he said.
Awori noted that such children would need surgery at one point during their lifetime when their conditions are not treated early.
Capital FM and Safaricom were among the main sponsors.
Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Michael Joseph said: "Sponsoring Mater Heart Run 2008 is a noble cause because the funds raised today will go a long way in helping many of those with heart problems."
"Mine is to ask you young people to protect the future of Kenya, love each other as the future is bright," said Capital FM Chairman Chris Kirubi.
In a similar event held in Magadi, towards the same cause, 400 participants took part with a further 500 taking part in Ongata Rongai.
The 10 kilometer walk started and ended at the Nyayo National Stadium.
Thousands of Kenyan children suffer from serious heart ailments including congenital heart disease and Rheumatic heart valve disease.
Most of these children must undergo surgery or cardiac cathetarisation for them to live a normal life.
The Government on its part spends Sh47 billion on health care, which is inadequate to cater for specialised treatment like heart ailments.