Kisumu gets free Cleft Palate camp

birth defects, surgery

Doctors perform cleft lip and cleft palate surgery at Homa Bay County Teaching and Referral Hospital on Mach 31, 2023.

Photo credit: POOL

At least 20 children from less privileged families have benefitted from a free cleft lip and cleft palate corrective surgery at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH).

The two-day surgical camp running from May 22 and 23 was organized by Smile Train and the Kenya Society of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (KSPRAS).

The exercise was conducted by a team of three plastic surgeons from Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa, 11 supporting doctors and 13 plastic surgeon trainees from the University of Nairobi (UoN).

According to the Society's Chair Kimani Wanjeri, the aim of the program is to put a smile on the faces of children born with the birth defect.

“A child born with a cleft lip has trouble feeding and is more likely to be malnourished, if left unrepaired, the child will also experience difficulties in speech,” said Dr Wanjeri.

“He said that while the defect can be easily corrected, the cost of the procedure has been the major barrier hindering the children from accessing treatment.

“Ordinarily, one will spend Sh50, 000 for repair of cleft lip and Sh80, 000 for cleft palate reconstructive surgery.

“Without surgery, these children face enormous health, developmental and psychological challenges,” said Dr Wanjeri.

Cleft is a condition characterized by a split in the roof of the mouth or lip that fails to close during the early stages of pregnancy.

It is estimated that 500 children born in Kenya annually have either cleft lip or palate. Lack of awareness has, however, seen newborns miss out on treatment exposing them to stigma.

According to Dr Mekonen Eshete, one of the surgeons from Ethiopia, the corrective procedure is critical to children who may end up being bullied and uncomfortable interacting with those around them.

“Due to the negative beliefs associated with cleft lip especially in Africa, when you treat cleft lip, you are not only treating the patient, you are also treating the family,” said Prof Eshete.

The surgical mission precedes the seventh annual Kenya Society of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons conference which began on Wednesday and will run until May 26, 2023 at the Sarova Imperial Hotel in Kisumu.

The conference, whose theme is Advancing Plastic Surgery in Africa, will allow for the exchange of ideas, knowledge and expertise, as well as address the opportunities and challenges facing the fraternity.

“By involving surgeons in training from the University of Nairobi, they are able to get first-hand experience, which builds our local capacity as a country, “said Dr Wanjeri.