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20 Children Benefit From Free Life-Saving Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Surgeries

Parents with cleft lip patients have been urged not to hide them but instead bring them forth and register them for free cleft lip surgery in the upcoming medical camps campaigns organised by Smile Train and the Kenya Society of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (KSPRAS) around different regions in the country.

A cleft condition is a gap in the mouth that did not close during the early stages of pregnancy. 
Over 20 children from less privileged families suffering from cleft lips and cleft palates underwent free cleft lip surgeries at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital(JOOTRH) in Kisumu County on the 22nd and 23rd May 2023 during a pre-conference workshop.

A team of volunteers, including three plastic surgeons from Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa, 11 supporting doctors and 13 plastic surgeon trainees from the University of Nairobi (UoN), teamed up with the medical staff from the Hospital to put a smile on the children's faces.

Speaking at the ongoing Kenya Society of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (KSPRAS) 7th Annual Scientific Conference at the Sarova Imperial Hotel in Kisumu between 24th - 26th May 2022, the Society's Chair, Dr. Kimani Wanjeri, mentioned that the cost of one surgery was over KShs. 80, 000 in public hospitals and over Kshs. 250,000 in private hospitals, which is way above the reach of many vulnerable families; the reason why the Kenya Society of Plastic Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgeons carries out these free reconstructive surgeries annually during the Society's Scientific Conference.

According to Dr. Kimani, a child with a cleft lip has trouble feeding and is more likely to be malnourished. He said if left unrepaired, the child will have speech difficulties. He said that the cost of undergoing surgery and the stigma attached to the condition deter most parents from accessing medical help for their children.
"In a government level five or level six hospital, the repair of a cleft lip would be 50,000 while repair for a cleft pallet the average cost would be 80,000 Kenya shillings. 

The cost goes higher if you are to have this done in a private hospital where the cost of everything is higher, including the cost of the doctors, the cost of space and time and hospitalisation; let's say the overall cost of hospitalisation 
would cost about 200,000 for the cleft lip repair and 300,000 for the palate.
"We are concerned that some children are hidden in homes, others view this as a curse while many of the children and parents suffer from stigma, yet this condition can be corrected through surgery," he added.

"Without surgery, these children face enormous health, developmental and psychological challenges. "In a government level five or level six hospital, the repair of a cleft lip is about KShs.50,000, while repair for a cleft pallet averages KShs.80,000," said Dr Kimani.
His sentiments were echoed by one of the visiting plastic surgeons, Prof Mekonen Eshete, of the University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
"This intervention is critical in the life of a child. 

After surgery, the child will not be bullied and will speak intelligibly. Because of 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.

Smile Train Manager for Education Patrick Mwai said the organisation is not only keen on facilitating the provision of life-changing surgery for the children, but they are also keen on building local capacity hence the inclusion of UoN medical students. 
"By involving them, surgeons in training from the University of Nairobi are able to get first-hand experience, which builds our local capacity as a country," he said.

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