Children with cleft lips and palates in Nyeri will now have surgeries performed on them quickly after the county unveiled a new theatre and two special wards at its referral hospital.
In partnership with Smiles Train Africa, the Sh20 million upgraded facility has a plastic and maxillofacial surgical theatre, two recovery wards and a children’s playing area that will offer them a more relaxed recovery atmosphere.
County Health Executive Rachel Kamau said the new theatre is an operational plus for the hospital as the existing one is ever busy.
She said correcting cleft lips and palates has in the past not been prioritised as the hospital concentrated on other emergency cases requiring theatre services.
The cleft lip surgeries will be offered for free at the referral hospital to patients within Nyeri and neighbouring counties.
The hospital’s Medical Superintendent Robert Ngunjiri said that taking children to theatres where they are then required to be moved for a distance has in the past exposed them to hypothermia, a condition that entails loss of more heat than the body produces.
But with the new theatre, Dr Ngunjiri said, patients will be operated on not far from their hospital beds.
Smile Train Africa Programme Director Jane Ngige said with the upgraded surgical theatre, medical officers will be better placed to offer global standards of cleft surgery.
"The hospital is an unfamiliar environment to children which is unsettling and so to give them a more relaxed environment for recovery, we have upgraded two wards and a play area," she said.
She further stated that there are some 1,700 children who are born annually with either cleft lips or cleft palates, a condition that if not fixed exposes them to malnutrition due to poor feeding habits.
Children with cleft lips often experience difficulties eating, breathing or even speaking, and if untreated, some die while those who grow up are often neglected and isolated.
Ms Ngige urged the community to shun the myths and beliefs that some societies uphold against children born with cleft lips.