•Causes of the Cleft Lip & Palate range from problems with genes passed down from one or both parents, drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, viruses and toxins during pregnancy
A local medic, Dr Meshack Onguti, is now calling on well-wishers and donors to support surgeries for Kenyans with cleft lip and palate.
Dr Onguti, Help a Child Face Tomorrow founder, is the lead surgeon and doubles up as the Nairobi Hospital representative.
He estimates that one in every 700 births result in the Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate deformity.
Dr Onguti also noted that funding will go a long way in increasing awareness and for the continuous success of the reconstructive surgeries.
Twenty four Kenyans over the weekend afforded the beauty of a smile after the Nairobi Hospital conducted reconstructive surgery for cleft lip and palate.
The 24 patients hail from various parts of the country and range from infants to adults.
A cleft lip may be just a small notch on the lip (incomplete cleft lip) and may be a complete split in the lip that goes all the way to the base of the nose (complete cleft lip or bilateral cleft lip).
A cleft palate can be on one or both sides of the roof of the mouth.
These facial deformities may cause a change in nose shape and/or poorly aligned teeth.
The medic said the focus is to provide high quality, safe, essential medical and surgical services in hard-to-reach rural communities.
“The ability for a parent to prevent cleft lip and palate is very limited, but pregnant women can be aware of the actions that increase the risk to their baby,” the medic said.
Adding that: “The problem can be genetic where someone from the family had the same problem or can be as a result of when pregnant women smoke, take alcohol or are exposed to environmental pollution.”
The doctor noted that such situations affect cells from coming together during the development of babies while in the womb.
Cleft Lip palate can affect the appearance of the face, lead to problems with feeding and speech as well as lead to ear infections.
“The purpose of the surgery is to ensure the palate is sealed and nicely reproduced, and is done by experts so that they don’t interfere with the facial growth,” Dr Onguti added.
In some cases, babies born with severe conditions fail to make it for one week after birth due to the inability to feed.
The hospital has so far carried out 100 surgeries in the past year.
Since clefts are not life-threatening, it is advisable to operate on affected children when they are big enough to withstand anesthesia and the trauma of surgery.
The optimal time for cleft lip surgery is when the child is three months old whereas 12 months is ideal for cleft palate repair.