Bringing the smile back to kids

Bringing the smile back to kids

MASERU – WHEN a child is born with a cleft lip or palate some Basotho consider it a curse and that the ancestors are not happy.
That’s not true, according to Doctor ’Mamakhetha Tšolo, a hospital manager at Willies Hospital in Maseru.
“Anybody with cleft lip or palate can be helped,” Dr Tšolo said.

She told thepost this week that Willies Hospital, in partnership with Smile Train and the Ministry of Health, will offer free cleft lip and palate surgery starting January next year.
According to Doctor ’Mamakhetha Tšolo, children born with the condition encounter problems when feeding. They cannot be breastfed in the normal way and need specific training.
Tšolo said due to the feeding problems, such children become underweight, experience slow growth and end up developing pneumonia.

She said the children are also bound to develop hearing problems, although for many parents the biggest problem seems to be the deformities which make the parents uncomfortable to move around with their children in public.

As a result, children with the condition tend to be stuck indoors to avoid stigma or being mocked, she said.
“Therefore, the child grows up lonely,” said Tšolo.
“The cleft lip surgery is (done) in the first three months after birth, provided they weigh at least five kilograms, while palate surgery is done from 15 months of age,” Tšolo said.
Normally the repair is healed after 90 days.

However, re-repair can be done after four months.
Alongside the physical repair, children need dental care, orthodontics, and speech therapy because they are unable to say out some words.
Tšolo said counselling is essential for parents to appreciate that children with the condition can live normal lives.
Tšolo said cleft lip and palate normally develop during the first three months of pregnancy.

She said the condition could be caused by pregnant women consuming different herbs or medications with varying doses.
“Sometimes pregnant women who live in remote areas cannot access supplements hence folic acid and salt become the primary cause (of the problem) in their bodies,” she said.
She said in most instances, pregnant women are ignorant of the effects of such substances.

One in a thousand children is born with the condition in the world, although Africa is particularly affected, according to Tšolo.
She said some are born with the defect, yet they are still normal and reach expected milestones while others are born with multiple defects.
“The repair gives hope to the children hence the meaning behind the partner ‘Smile Train’. The service is free to anybody as well as those who are in the remote areas,” said Tšolo.
Older people with the condition will also be catered for, she said.

A representative of Smile Train, Tšepiso Vera, said the programme was established in 1999 as a donor-driven project.
It is an international children’s charity that supports 100 percent free cleft repair surgery and comprehensive cleft care for children globally.
Smile Train operates in more than 85 countries and empowers local medical professionals to provide cleft care in their own communities.
Vera noted that so far, Lesotho does not provide this type of surgery.

There are over 1 500 hospitals that are working in partnership with Smile Train worldwide.
In Lesotho, Smile Train is working with Willies Hospital through the Ministry of Health.
Vera added that the surgery is very expensive. It costs M140 000 for a single cleft lip or palate repair whereas both repairs cost around M280 000.

“This implies that not everyone would be able to pay such amounts of money hence Smile Train is coming to their rescue for free,” Vera said.
“For as long as a person is born with the illness, Willies will continue providing the service,” she said.
Registration has started already.

People are invited to bring gifts for the children and those with children’s skills can come to play with them.
Tšolo’s husband, Dr Willies Hoedoafia, is part of the project.

Tokase Mphutlane

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