Bambini Cardiopatici nel Mondo is a secular independent association that guarantees cardiological medical treatment and heart surgery for children with congenital or acquired heart diseases. We work, with our volunteers, in countries characterised by poverty and economic instability, our main objective being to reduce the infant mortality rate.

For almost thirty years, Bambini Cardiopatici nel Mondo has risen to the challenge to intervene where the need is greatest, providing the qualified personnel and skills needed to influence change and give hope to children born in the poorest parts of the world.

Bambini Cardiopatici nel Mondo is a non-profit organisation (Italian Ministerial Decree 28/01/00), recognised as a charity since 2003 and a CSO (Civil Society Organisation) since 2020.

Our vision

We want a world in which every child with a heart condition has access to the best specialist medical care without any geographical, religious, ethnic or political discrimination. We want a world where families can trust the medical-scientific community and their children, despite being born with a serious illness in a troubled country, can have a chance to live.

We care for children’s hearts

Every year, 2 million children are born with heart disease, of whom1.5 million have no life expectancy because they are born in low- and middle-income countries. The World Society of Pediatric Heart Surgery estimates that 75% of children born in the world’s poorest countries do not have access to adequate treatment or surgery.

Our intervention strategy includes:

Surgical missions

We organise surgical missions with specialised teams in countries lacking adequately trained doctors for paediatric heart surgery. Cardiologists, surgeons, anaesthetists, intensivists, nurses and technicians, all volunteers, assess the cases and carry out diagnosis and surgery. These missions also provide some of the materials for the operations.

Advanced training

Training doctors is central to improving health systems in developing countries. This is why we support training for cardiologists and heart surgeons, but also for the other professional roles essential to the work of heart surgery teams (resuscitation anaesthetists, intensivists, perfusionists, etc.). Training is also provided thanks to the continuous support from our doctors to those in the countries where we operate, via telemedicine. In addition to this activity, the Association contributes to training and research projects at the IRCCS Policlinico San Donato. Refresher courses for paediatricians in the field of congenital heart disease are organised in various regions throughout Italy.


Paediatric heart surgery requires special structures and instruments, the availability of which affects the success of the operations. For this reason, the Association has also decided to intervene to improve hospital structures and wards, with the construction of centres specialising in paediatric heart surgery and cardiology, equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and medical supplies.


The lack of human resources such as qualified doctors and nurses is one of the most problem and many hospitals are unable to function due to the lack of specialized doctors. The training of young doctors becomes a priority for developing countries and, in the sector of cardiac surgery and interventional cardiology in particular, training is the main tool for learning. Since it is not possible to practice directly on patients and to reduce learning times, training with 3D printed simulation of various cardiac pathologies is increasingly being developed.

The AESCULAPIUS project main object is to train at least 100 young cardiac surgeons and cardiologists, from any country, organizing courses in surgical technique and echocardiography with simulation on 3D-printed heart models and on baby echocardiography mannequins. The duration of the project is 2 years starting from July 2023. The training course and lessons will take place in the Training Center within the I.R.C.C.S. San Donato Polyclinic under the supervision of Prof. Alessandro Frigiola. The full programme is a five-days course and there is a theoretical part and a simulation and practical one.

After the course they will be able to perform the same procedures in their countries and save more lives.

A story that started

30 years ago

The Association was founded by Prof. Alessandro Frigiola (Director of the Children’s Cardiac Surgery at the IRCCS Policlinico San Donato in Milan) and Prof. Silvia Cirri (Head of Anaesthesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care, initially at the IRCCS Policlinico San Donato and now at the Istituto Clinico Sant’Ambrogio in Milan).

In 1996 we started to have more tangible impact. We wanted to start creating structures capable of welcoming more and more children and their families.

Our commitment grew, as did requests for intervention in Egypt, Romania and Tunisia. An important new project began: training of local staff. Autonomy and development of the local health system became our new goals in agreement with the governments and universities where we operate.

In 2004 the Association began working in Syria, Peru, Venezuela and Paraguay. An important donation made it possible to build the Cardiac Center in Cameroon, in a poor area.

In 2010 we inaugurated the Cardiac Center inside the St. Elizabeth Hospital in Shisong, Cameroon, and carried out 28 surgical missions, saving the lives of a large number of children.

In 2011 we inaugurated the Cardiac Surgery Centre at the University Children’s Hospital in Damascus, Syria.

Projects by country


Every year, around 18,000 babies are born in Egypt with congenital heart disease, at least half of whom require surgery during their first year of life. In our more than twenty years operating in Cairo, it has been possible to train the local cardiologists and heart surgeons, making them autonomous in the treatment of heart disease in children over one year old. The organisation of paediatric heart surgery in Egypt currently has 10 centres where about 5,000 operations are performed. In order to improve these results and to continue to have a positive impact on the lives of the many children with heart disease, the Association has developed—first in collaboration with Kasr al-Aini Teaching Hospital, Agouza Police Hospital and the Air Force Specialised Hospital and the National Heart Institute —a paediatric cardiac surgery programme with a focus on the treatment of diseases in the newborn and in the first year of life. A network of outpatient clinics for early diagnosis is also being set up in the area.


With over 260 million inhabitants, Nigeria is the most populous country on the African continent. Every year, 30,000 children are born here with congenital heart disease, of whom 20,000 require surgery. There are currently only five heart surgery centres in Nigeria, which are not sufficient to provide adequate care for these children. In collaboration with the Nigerian Ministry of Health and EHC (European Heart for Children), the Association has decided to build the new Centre for the training of young doctors at the University College Hospital in Ibadan.

The construction of the University Hospital Training Centre in Ibadan, Nigeria, started in 2018.


The main objective of the project in Morocco is to improve paediatric heart surgery (facilities and personnel) in the country. The Kingdom of Morocco, in North Africa, has a population of 34 million. Every year, 5,000 children are born with congenital heart disease, most of whom could be saved if properly treated. The neonatal mortality rate is 36%. At present, only three centres are able to perform simple operations for congenital heart disease. The Association has contributed so far by organising numerous surgical missions at the Ibn Rochd Hospital in Casablanca and with the project to build a paediatric heart surgery centre there.


The Cardiac Centre is located in Shisong and it is the first paediatric heart surgery centre in Cameroon and neighbouring countries, serving a catchment area of 200 million people. This great result has been made possible by the joint effort of three organisations: Bambini Cardiopatici nel Mondo, Cuore Fratello Onlus and the Order of Franciscan Tertiary Sisters of Bressanone. In 1935, this Catholic religious order founded, and since then has directed, the Saint Elizabeth Catholic General Hospital in Shisong where the Centre was built. The project was set up in 2001, the first surgical mission was carried out in March 2005 and the Cardiac Centre was officially inaugurated on 19 November 2009. Due to the political situation in recent years, activities have been transferred to the Clinique Le Jourdain in Youndè.


Syria, with its 18 million inhabitants, needed a qualified centre for the treatment of congenital heart disease. The Association, which has been present in the country for over 20 years, set up the paediatric heart surgery and cardiology centre at Damascus University Hospital in collaboration with Damascus University and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Directorate-General for Development Cooperation. The centre was inaugurated on 24 July 2011 and enables 800/1,000 operations to be carried out each year. At present, the Association continues to support numerous missions on site despite the complex situation in this country.


Romania has more than 20 million inhabitants and already has its own group of paediatric cardiologists and heart surgeons. However, the number of facilities and specialised healthcare personnel is absolutely insufficient to meet all the current demands. In July 2013, the Romanian Minister of Health proposed a multi-year programme to IRCCS Policlinico San Donato and the Association for reorganisation of paediatric cardiology and heart surgery in the country, to improve the quality of treatment for children suffering from severe congenital heart disease with the aim of reducing infant mortality. The project includes: medical and surgical missions at the Marie Curie Paediatric Hospital in Bucharest and at the cardiovascular centres in Iasi, Cluj and Timișoara, and a training programme for doctors, nurses and healthcare staff, as well as the organisation of medical and scientific conferences. More than 150 children a year currently undergo heart surgery and interventional cardiology at the Marie Curie Hospital.

The founders

Alessandro Frigiola

He graduated in Medicine and Surgery at Padua University, where he specialised in Paediatric Surgery. He obtained a second specialisation in Heart Surgery at the University of Bologna. He continued his training abroad, attending the Hôpital De La Timone in Marseilles, the Green Lane Hospital in Aukland, the Hospital for Sick Children in London, the Cardiothoracic Centre in Monte Carlo and the Hôpital Pessac in Bordeaux. In 1993 he founded the Bambini Cardiopatici nel Mondo and became President of the association in 2004. Director of the Children’s Cardiac Surgery at the IRCCS Policlinico San Donato in Milan. During his career, Prof. Alessandro Frigiola has performed more than 12,000 heart operations on adults and children. Internationally, he has organised more than 400 humanitarian missions in 27 countries, operating on about 3,000 children. His numerous awards and recognitions include: the Ambrogino d’Oro awarded by the Mayor of Milan and the Benemerenza di Grande Ufficiale per le Attività Umanitarie (Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic for Humanitarian Activity) awarded by President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano, both in 2008, and, in 2016, the honour of Commendatore dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana (Knight Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic) awarded by President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella with ‘Motu proprio’.

Silvia Cirri

After graduating in Medicine and Surgery from Milan University (1977), she specialised in Anaesthesia and Resuscitation at the same university (1980). Her work focuses mainly on adult and paediatric heart surgery, multispeciality surgery, haemodynamics and electrophysiology. Her training continued abroad: London (Hospital for Sick Children), Boston (Brigham and Women’s Hospital) and Paris (Hôpital des Enfants Malades). In 1993 she founded the Bambini Cardiopatici nel Mondo association and became its Vice President. She is currently Head of the Anaesthesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care Unit at the Sant’Ambrogio Clinical Institute in Milan. Since 2013, she has been an Adjunct Professor at the Postgraduate School of Cardiac Surgery at Milan University. A member of the Scientific Faculty at SICOA (Italian Society of Accredited Cardiology Hospital Care), since 2009 she has been a member of the Supervisory Board of the Shisong Cardiac Center in Cameroon. In 2019, she received the Pioneer Woman Scientist or Physician award at the Global Health Pioneer Awards in Dubai.

A special project


The Hearts in Emergency project was launched in 2016 to bring to Italy children who urgently require an operation and cannot be operated on in their own country.

We are tackling the pandemic in 2020 by creating a support network for the young heart patients who continue to arrive in our country in urgent need of care, and we assist them and their families before and after surgery by putting them up in appropriate facilities.

Bambini Cardiopatici nel Mondo receives and examines requests for help and carries out pre-operative assessments in collaboration with the IRCCS Policlinico San Donato. Depending on the situation, the Association covers, either partially or fully, the expenses incurred to guarantee hospitalisation, including costs for the transfer, board and lodging for the child and accompanying parent.

Since 2016, this project has made it possible to help over 70 children and their families, from different countries (Moldavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraqi Kurdistan, Albania, Etiopia, Guinea Bissau, Libia, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Nigeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and Burkina Faso).

We have children at heart… and you?

You can help us in many different ways:

CREDIT CARD secure payment at


Intesa San Paolo
Piazza Paolo Ferrari, 10 – 20121 Milano
IBAN: IT63W0306909606100000015923

Crédite Agricole
Agenzia di Vicenza


Intesa San Paolo
Piazza Paolo Ferrari, 10 – 20121 Milano
IBAN: IT63W0306909606100000015923

Crédite Agricole
Agenzia di Vicenza


Our numbers Updated to 2023

Over 500 surgical missions in 27 countries

3 paediatric heart surgery centres inaugurated

361 scholarships assigned

over 21,500 diagnoses carried out

over 4,622 life-savingoperations

Over 363 refresher courses


Partnerships and collaboration

We collaborate with important national and international organisations in the field of paediatric cardiology and heart surgery.

IRCCS Policlinico San Donato

Scientific Institute of Research, Hospitalization and Health Care. Italian excellence in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases.

European Heart for Children

A humanitarian foundation under the umbrella of the European Society of Cardiology that organises projects to treat childhood heart disease


Bambini Cardiopatici nel Mondo A.I.C.I. Non-profit organisation

Via Olmetto, 5 – 20123 Milano Tel.: (+39) 02.89096244 Fax: (+39) 02.72010743

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