Cleft lip, palatal malformations: more than 30,000 patients treated free of charge in Nigeria

By Chimezie Godfrey

As many as 30,000 Nigerians have been treated free of charge by non-governmental organization Smile Train for a congenital condition known as cleft lip and/or palate.

This was revealed by Public Relations and Communications Manager, Africa, Smile Train, Emily Manjeru, on Monday in Abuja during a two-day national media workshop organized by Smile Train to train and empower journalists on the effective dissemination of relevant information that will help citizens access treatment.

Manjeru said Smile Train is the world’s largest cleft-focused organization that provides training, funding and resources to enable local medical professionals in over 70 countries to provide 100% free cleft surgeries. , safe, timely and comprehensive and other forms of essential cleft care. in their own communities.

She explained that cleft lip and/or palate are birth defects that occur when a baby’s lip or mouth doesn’t form properly during pregnancy.

Manjeru revealed that every 3 minutes 1 child is born with a cleft lip and/or palate in the world, adding that most of these children have difficulty eating, breathing and speaking.

According to her, in Africa alone, more than 32,000 children are born each year with a cleft lip and/or palate, while also revealing that more than 30,000 cleft patients have been treated across the country.

She said: “Here in Nigeria I think we have treated over 30,000 patients since we started our program in 2008. The reason Nigeria is because we are in close contact with the government to start having real data located to get patients for a slot. .

“We have developed strategies for our medical experts to give us information and to convert that information into policy.”

Speaking at the workshop, a plastic surgeon from the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Abuja, Dr. Amina Abubakar said there was no known cause for the fissure but mentioned that some of the identified causes are related to genetics and environmental factors such as malnutrition. , smoking and alcohol consumption by mothers during pregnancy.

Dr Abubakar cited instances where cleft patients are treated like slaves and prevented from accessing medical care because they believe they are cursed, leading to cultural practices such as stigmatization, banishment , abuse and, in some cases, starvation to death, as is commonly found in localities of people living with cleft conditions.

“Cleft conditions are accompanied by speech and hearing problems, respiratory problems and an inability to thrive, among others. However, the conditions can be treated with surgeries offered free of charge by Smile Train, and surgery cases are nearly 100% successful,” she said.

In his goodwill message, the Chairman of the FCT Board of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Emmanuel Ogbeche thanked Smile Train for the opportunity and for developing the capacity of journalists to be up to date in the accurate reporting of the slot case, especially that the media in Nigeria has the challenge of capacity building.

“Nigeria has a huge gap in terms of health budgeting and when organizations like Smile Train fill the gap, it helps us provide affordable, quality health care to our people in need.

“The NUJ thanks you for what you do. We hope that we will continue to engage and involve more journalists in this type of training so that we can have journalists skilled in reporting and spreading advocacy and awareness.

Mr. Ogbeche therefore encouraged journalists to take the training very seriously to become advocates and leaders in reporting cleft conditions and providing treatment opportunities to Nigerians who do not have access to them.

Christine E. Phillips