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Over 30 Children With Lips Deformities Get Better Smiles
By Prince S. Nagbe, LINA
MONROVIA, July 5 (LINA) – Over 30 children, who suffered Palatoschisis or lip deformity, have been given hope as two surgeons from Smile Train International in collaboration with the Medical Director of ELWA Hospital conducted Craniofacial surgeries on them.
Cleft lip or cleft palate is a birth abnormality of the mouth and lip which occurs when the roof of the mouth does not completely close, leaving an opening that can extend into the nasal cavity or nose.
The opening may involve either side of the palate and can extend from the front of the mouth to the throat.
Ifeanyichukwu Onah, a Plastic Surgeon, from Enugu National Orthopaedic Hospital in Nigeria, Smile Train International Program Director for Western and Central Africa, Dr. Mrs. Nkeiruka Obi and ELWA Hospital Medical Director Dr. Jerry Brown carried out the surgeries at the ELWA Hospital in Paynesville on Monday.
Speaking to a team of journalists prior to the surgeries, Dr. Brown said the exercise, which is being sponsored by Smile Train, was intended to allow the children with lip deformities to smile much better.
According to him, his decision to connect with Smile Train through Dr. Obi to perform the surgery on children with such facial deformities was due to the lack of Plastic Surgeons in the country.
He added that though he is capable of carrying out such surgery, there are some complex ones that need to be performed by experienced surgeons.
Dr. Brown, however, named the inability of families to transport their patients with cleft problem to Monrovia for treatment, lack of adequately trained Liberian physicians and surgeons as well as insufficient awareness as some of the challenges affecting the success of the program.
For her part, Dr. Obi noted that though there were 32 children being worked on, the program is targeting about 50 children with such deformities to give them hope and a second chance to life.
The Smile Train official pointed out that the program is also geared toward empowering local doctors in Liberia to help children with Palatoschisis, adding, “No child in Liberia should die because of cleft problems.”
Dr. Obi, who put the cost of the entire exercise at US$20,000, said Smile Train is responsible to underwrite the cost of the entire program.
Meanwhile, some of the parents who spoke with LINA thanked the Smile Train family and Dr. Brown for such “great initiative that will help give their children hope and life again” and alleviate the level of stigmatization they have experienced in their communities over the years
“I am very happy that my son will be cured. I thank God for Smile Train to come to Liberia to help us cure our children who are always seen as creatures by people in the community”, Hawa Tugbeh, a mother of three-year-old Elijah Tugbeh, who suffered from Cleft told LINA.
“I was advised to abandon my daughter at the hospital by some women after my daughter was diagnosed of having Cleft Lip”, Wanita Sieway, the mother of one year old Ruth Baryogar told the Liberia News Agency at the ELWA Hospital.
According to Wanita, she was encouraged by her parents to take her baby to the Hospital for the surgery after they heard of it.
For his part, Austin Kumeh, the father of two-year-old Shantel Kumeh, said he felt relief because the curing of his daughter will help remove the shame he and his family encounter as a result of the stigmatization from community members.
Smile Train is one of the world’s largest organizations and charity that provides corrective surgery for children with Cleft lips and Palates. It was established in 1999 with headquarters in New York.
Smile Train provides free corrective cleft surgery in 87 countries around the world training local doctors and providing hospital funding for the procedures.