Bringing hope and a future to babies with cleft lip and palate with Smile Train

By Patricia Amogu, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

“Congratulations! Congratulations, Sekina (because she wants to be addressed due to fear of stigma against family),” well-wishers greeted as they excitedly toured the ward to congratulate Sekina on her new- born.

After a tedious labor at Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagalada, Sekina became a mother for the first time in her life. Her joy and that of her husband, Ahmed know no bounds

The birth was more special as the baby is expected to grow up and succeed his father as Sarki (Chief) Agwandodo when he is no more. The midwife took the newborn to clean it.

Shortly after, she emerges and hands this baby over to Sekina. The impact was instantaneous. We hear the fall of a pin.

The disappointment on Sekin’a’s face is indescribable. Only one question crossed his mind: “How did I offend the gods to deserve this?”

Her son was born with a malformation, a cleft lip and palate! Suddenly, the joyful atmosphere turned into a repressed feeling of sadness,

Ahmed’s newly born son Musti joins the growing number of children born around the world with cleft lip and palate, the birth defect that occurs when a baby’s lip or mouth doesn’t form properly during the pregnancy.

The World Health Organization says orofacial clefts are a common birth defect, affecting one in every 700 live births worldwide, while an estimated 13,150 babies are born with a cleft each year in countries in the United States alone. French speaking Africa.

An analysis conducted by the National Library of Medicine of 602,568 children explored the prevalence rate of underweight in children with cleft.

He reported that the overall prevalence of underweight at the time of primary cleft surgery was 28.6%, well above the overall prevalence of underweight in children under 5 without slot estimated at 13.5%.

“Every day, more than 200,000 children are born worldwide with this abnormal birth, on these growing indices, seven billion of these babies do not have access to safe surgeries.

“They are at risk of remaining malnourished due to access to quality health care and good nutrition. Some may never receive adequate nutrition until their first appointment with the surgeon,” he said.

According to a report by the US-based Cleveland Clinic, approximately one in 1,600 babies in the United States is born with a cleft lip with a cleft palate.

Similarly, one in 2,800 babies is born with a cleft lip without a cleft palate, and about one in 1,700 babies is born with a cleft palate.

In many local African communities, these children are considered a curse, a sort of punishment from the gods. It is a taboo for them to inherit the throne.

Speaking about her son’s condition and struggles, Sekina said, “It’s been weeks now and none of our relatives or neighbors have visited us.

“In fact, when we have a visitor from outside our neighborhood, I hide them in the interior room. Feeding him was very difficult.

Experts say that cleft lip and palate is caused by facial tissues that do not come together properly during development.

According to them, it is a common congenital condition that causes an opening or cracks in the roof of the mouth and lips.

According to WebMD, the cause of cleft lip and cleft palate is unknown in most cases, and the conditions cannot be prevented because most scientists believe clefts are due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Dr Amina Abubakar, Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, said the stigma, myths and misinformation around cleft is the reason why cleft lip patients and of the pallet suffer.

According to her, Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft-focused NGO, has seen tremendous impacts while providing pre- and post-operative support to bring smiles back to the faces of these patients.

“No child born with a cleft should die, out of 300 corrective surgeries performed I have never lost a cleft patient, I can say this is a 100% guarantee of successful surgeries.

“Most of the time when we go to the communities to raise awareness about the cleft, we find that the natives are unwilling to seek help from their loved ones or loved ones due to many traditional beliefs.

“It has to stop, cleft is a birth defect whose causes have yet to be identified and not a curse,” she said of the Smile Train initiative.

Prof Emmanuel Ameh, a pediatric surgeon at National Hospital Abuja, said adequate attention and care is needed to end preventable deaths in babies born with a cleft.

“Some of these babies die before they get to the hospital because of malnutrition, lack of proper care,” she said on the sidelines of a two-day nationwide media workshop hosted by Smile Train, in Abuja.

Smile Train, an NGO, has active cleft care programs in 41 countries across Africa, with over 245 partners and over 255 partner hospitals across the continent.

The NGO has made strategic investments in education and training, including working with Scottish Charity, KidsOR; College of Surgeons of Eastern, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA).

It also partners with the West African College of Surgeons (WACS) to offer scholarships in various categories.

Ameh, also the chief consultant at the hospital, said Smile Train provides basic equipment to ensure that split babies are breathing well before undergoing surgery.

“There is hope for these babies as there is for adults. Smile Train has also set up a helpline and these people will be trained on how to get help by contacting the helpline,” he explained.

The NGO said it is aware of the importance of research and capacity building to help these special children in need.

“Smile Train continues to invest in research through in-person workshops, online sessions and mentorship, leading to the creation of cleft-related research to inform good policy in the region,” said said Susannah Schaefer, president of the NGO, in a press release.

Non-governmental and non-profit organizations have continued to play a major role in advancing the course of humanity in areas such as treatment and care for children with special health conditions.

Governments and well-meaning individuals should build stronger synergy with them to help more people in need. (NAN Features)

** If used, please credit the author and Nigeria News Agency.

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Christine E. Phillips