A team of medical experts from the South African foundation; Operation Smile, is in the country to perform free cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries on over 200 patients.
A cleft lip is a separation of the two sides of the lip, which can include the bone of the upper jaw; while a cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth because the two sides of the palate have not joined properly.
A cleft is an opening which is non-fusion of the body’s natural structures that form before birth.
According to Dr. Bonavature Nizeyimana, an official from the Ministry of Health, “the operations will begin on Friday March 11 and run for nine days up to 20, at CHU-K.”
This will be Operation Smile South Africa’s second mission in Rwanda.
The team is scheduled to start screening patients and listing the most critical cases.
Clefts can also affect other parts of the face, such as the eyes, ears, nose, cheeks, and forehead. A cleft lip or palate can be successfully treated with surgery, especially so if conducted soon after birth or in early childhood.
Nizeyimana added that the Ministry of health will bring all patients at CHU-K and that so far accommodation, meals and transport have been arranged for the patients.
All services will be offered free of charge.
“We intend to eradicate this problem and remain with cases of newborn babies. In a period of two years we may not need foreign specialists to deal with these cases since there are Rwandans who are currently undertaking the course,” Nizeyimana.
However, cleft may cause problems with feeding, ear disease, speech and socialization.
“The patients live in a less humane and dignified situation, these operations restore hope to them,” said Nizeyimana.
Briefing the press about the operation, the Operation Smile’ Vice President for Africa, Natalie Miller said that an operation take between 45 minutes and one hour.
CHU-K has set up six operating tables that would be used by surgeons. On average about 45 cases can be worked on a day.
The U.S government is partly sponsoring the operations, and according to Ambassador Stuart Symington, the surgeries cannot easily be valued in terms of money considering the impact they make on people’s lives.
Apparently, individuals with cleft also face many middle ear infections which can eventually lead to total hearing loss.