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Smile Train Calls For Better Care For Cleft Kids In Ghana

Susannah Schaefer, President and CEO Smile Train with Mrs. Nkeiruka Obi, Vice-President and Regional Director for Africa

Over two thousand children born with cleft lip and palate have benefited from corrective surgeries to fully integrate into society devoid of stigmatisation.

For mothers who are visiting the Cleft Clinic for the first time, the fear of the unknown as to whether such deformities in their babies could be corrected is obvious.

Anxiety could be seen in the eyes of mothers of babies with cleft lip and palate.

But that is soon to change when mothers whose children have already undergone surgeries share their experiences with them

Narrations From Persons With Cleft Kids:

Speaking to this reporter, Madam Amina said her first thought upon seeing her grandchild was a wish that he died.

“When I saw my grandson I wished he died because I was disturbed with the deformity but when I came to here and saw other babies with severe deformities and those with their corrective surgeries performed I felt relieved”, she narrated.

On her part, Akosua Adwutwumwaa lamented that her child’s condition meant she had to stay indoors with him forever.

“I didn’t know how I will go to public places with my son so all I kept telling myself was to stay indoors but when I was referred to KATH and i saw the pictures of other babies whose issues had been corrected, I knew help was in for my son and finally when the surgery was performed and I saw my child my joy knew no bounds”, Adutwumwaa recounted.

Background Information:

Cleft lip and palate are birth defects that occur when a baby’s lip or mouth does not form properly during pregnancy.

A combination of genetic and environmental factors affecting mothers lead to the defect.

Here at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital Cleft Multidisciplinary Clinic,  over 5000 cases have seen with over 2000 surgeries performed within the 20 years of establishment.

It sees 35 cases every Clinic day and an annual case figure of 450.

Head of KATH Cleft Unit:

Head of the Team,  Dr Solomon Obiri Yeboah says the issue of stigma is a bane they are battling with and more advocacy is needed

“We are aware of all the social stigma parents and the children go through, some are even sacked from the communities they live in, but we have social workers who go to the communities to embark on advocacy so gradually we are trying to break the stigma”

Cost of Surgeries:

The cost of performing the corrective surgery runs into thousands of dollars.

The Ghana Cleft Foundation and Smile Train, both NGOs have been financing the cost of the surgeries carried out at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital

Dr Obiri-Yeboah believes it was high time the Ministry of Health through the NHIA enrolled Cleft care on the scheme as it is done for babies with hernia

“It is expensive for these surgeries to be done, thankfully here at KATH we have donor support so all surgeries are performed free of charge”


However Dr Obiri Yeboah believes NHIA should enrol cleft care on the scheme.

He noted that “just like hernia for kids are covered by NHIS, cleft care should also be enrolled so mothers in other parts of the country do not travel to KATH to benefit from the free surgeries”.

Smile Train Interventions:

To improve Cleft care in Ghana and for that matter Africa, Smile Train is financing the establishment of the first ever Cleft Leadership Centre for Africa at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital.

President of Smile Train, Sussanah Scheafer echoed the importance of the Cleft Leadership Centre and its significance for cleft care

At Smile Train, we believe not only in financing the corrective surgeries but also capacity building of the health care professionals she noted

“This Cleft Leadership Centre here at KATH is the first on African soil and it will be a hub of excellence to have the ability to treat tougher cleft cases, capacity training for the Multidisciplinary professionals and provide avenue for more comprehensive cleft care for the patients, she disclosed.

The Cleft Leadership Centre I expected to be completed and handed over to the Ministry of Health and Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital by close of 2024

Credit: Beatrice Spio-Garbrah, Media General(Akoma fm).

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