20 children benefit from free surgery

Thursday, May 25th, 2023 07:20 | By
Surgery session PD/Munira Mandano

A total of 20 children from less privileged families have benefited from free cleft lip and cleft palate corrective surgeries, performed at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu county.

A cleft condition is a gap in the mouth that did not close during the early stages of pregnancy.

A team of volunteers who included 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 during the initiative to put a smile on the children’s faces.  The mission was organised on May 22 and 23 by Smile Train and the Kenya Society of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (KSPRAS).

The Society’s Chair, Dr Kimani Wanjeri, said 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 difficulties in speech. He said that the cost of undergoing surgery and stigma attached to the condition deter most parents from accessing medical help for their children.  “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 Sh50,000, while repair for a cleft pallet averages Sh80,000,” said Wanjeri.

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.

Psychological challenges

Smile Train Manager for Education Patrick Mwai said the organisation is not only keen in facilitating provision of the life changing surgery for the children, 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.

The surgical mission preceded the seventh annual Kenya Society of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons conference, which began on Tuesday 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.  Smile Train is an international medical charity with a network of medical volunteers from around the world, who offer cleft repair surgery and comprehensive cleft care at no cost.

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