Health practitioners move to tackle cleft in Nigeria

Health practitioners in Nigeria have called for concerted efforts from all stakeholders to boost cleft lip and palate treatment in the country.

The practitioners made the call at a 2-day National Cleft Forum, themed “Planning for Sustainable Comprehensive Cleft Care” organised by the global cleft charity, Smile Train in Kano state. The forum is also scheduled to be held in all geopolitical zones of the country at later dates.

A cleft is a common birth difference that occurs when certain body parts and structures do not fuse together during fetal development. They can involve the lip and/or the palate. Causes of a cleft remain unknown but risk factors include environmental factors, lack of proper nutrition, as well as genetics. Many children with clefts around the world live in isolation, making it difficult to make friends and go to school, but more importantly, have difficulty eating, breathing, and speaking. 

That is why the health practitioners believe the support of all stakeholders is required to explore ways of achieving comprehensive cleft care at community level.

Speaking during the premiere of the stakeholder forums, Prof. Adetokunbo Adebola of the Faculty of Dentistry, College of Health Sciences, Bayero University Kano, noted that there was need to step up efforts in order to increase the number of children receiving free quality care in the country to enable them live a normal and healthy life.

“Children born with cleft are isolated, some even killed, ridding our society of potential to thrive. As partners, we are putting our heads together to provide solutions and formulate policies for our patients to receive the highest standards of comprehensive care at no cost. Smile Train has been championing for partnerships with local hospitals, hence the forums will educate stakeholders on nature and challenges of cleft, provide information on how to access care and promote close interactions and share ideas and experiences,” noted Prof. Adebola. 

On her part, Smile Train Programme Manager, West Africa, Victoria Awazie acknowledged the need for local partnerships in sustaining cleft care in the country.  She called upon community members to shun myths and misconceptions surrounding cleft and work together with the healthcare partners to ensure children receive the life-changing treatment.” 

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