Over 130 medical experts from around Africa are scheduled to meet in Nairobi, Kenya to brainstorm on cleft repair and treatment and other key developments in this field.
The conference is organised by the Pan African Association of Cleft lip and Palate (PAACLIP). This will be the 6th Scientific Congress – It will take place on 25th – 27th March.
The congress will run under the theme ‘Shaping the future of cleft care in Africa by setting standards and protocols for better outcomes.’
At the same time, some Kenyan patients that have been identified with cleft lip and palate conditions are set to benefit from free surgery from top maxillofacial surgeons.
This will be showcased during a live surgery workshop to be held at the Nairobi Hospital main theatre with a live video link to the congress hall.
The surgeries sponsored by Smile Train and Nairobi Hospital will take place at the hospital’s main theatre with patients receiving free follow up treatment, orthodontic care and speech therapy to help rehabilitate them.
According to PAACLIP Secretary General and head of congress secretariat Dr.Meshach Ong’uti, most patients with cleft lip and palate cannot afford surgery and treatment for the condition thus the need to support local interventions to finance them.
“Most insurance companies do not cover cleft lip and palate deformities as they are considered congenital yet the surgery and treatment is not affordable to many,” Ong’uti said.
Accordning to Ong’uti, the African governments must address this policy gap in order to support those affected.
Globally, 1 in every 700 children is born with a cleft lip and/or palate. Clefts are the leading birth defect in many developing countries.
In Rwanda alone since 2010, Operation Smile has conducted medical programs in Butaro, Kigali, and Musanze. Over the past five years, Operation Smile has provided free surgical care to about 1,300 patients in Rwanda.
[In picture above: Rwandan mother holds her baby ready for cleft repair by Operation Smile]
The cleft incidence rate of individuals of Africa descent is approximately 1 in 1,200 births.
No one knows exactly what the cause of a cleft lip and palate is, but most experts agree that the causes are multifactorial and may include a genetic predisposition as well as environmental issues such as drug and alcohol use, smoking, maternal illness, infections, lack of Vitamin B, also known as folic acid.