Surgeon urges adequate attention to end deaths among babies with cleft



Professor Emmanuel Ameh, a Paediatric Surgeon at National Hospital, Abuja, has stressed the need for adequate attention and care to end preventable mortalities among babies born with cleft.

Ameh made the call at the sideline of a two- day Nationwide Media workshop organised by Smile Train, the world largest cleft-focused Organisation in Abuja.

According to him, the biggest challenge facing cleft treatment in Nigeria is the lack of adequate awareness and firsthand knowledge on how to handle these babies, especially those with breathing difficulties.

“Some of these babies die before they get to the hospital due to malnourishment, lack of proper care, the manner in which they are handled even in tertiary hospitals can be detrimental to their health and may cause death.

“One of the things we are trying to do is to train staff, especially the nurses, community health officers, local birth attendants who will in turn train the women on how to identify cleft cases in new-borns and identify those with breathing problems in good time.

Ameh, also the Chief Consultant at the Hospital, said Smile Train was making available basic equipment to ensure cleft babies breathe well at the point of identification before getting to go for surgeries.

“Smile Train has also established a helpline and these persons will be trained on how to get help via contacting the helpline,” he said.

Ameh stressed the need for legislations at state levels to ensure that the state governments are investing in cleft care training and equipment for cleft lips and palette treatments.

“We need to train a lot more personnel for the position of nurses and medical professionals, because we have young people who are interested but have no support for training,’’ he added.

Dr Amina Abubakar, Consultant Plastic Surgeon, University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, said that stigma, unfounded myths and misinformation around Cleft are the reason why Cleft lip and palette patient’s suffer.

According to her, Smile Train had done a lot to support, from providing 100 per cent free surgeries to provision of training, funding and resources to empower local medical professionals on proper care for cleft patients.

“No child born with Cleft should die in 300 corrective surgeries done, I have never lost any cleft patient, I can say it is a 100 per cent guarantee of successful surgeries.

“Most times, when we go into the communities’ for awareness about Cleft, we find that indigenes are not willing to present their relatives or loved ones for help due to a lot of traditional beliefs.

“This needs to stop, Cleft is a birth defect with yet to be identified causes and not a curse. It is not caused by sins of parents and is corrective, they can live normal and happy lives if well managed,” she added.

Emily Manjeru, the Public Relations and Communications Manager of the Organisation, reiterated its commitment towards making sure that babies born with these abnormalies were given adequate treatment, get their voices and confidence back and become big achievers.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that cleft lip and palate is a gap or split in the upper lip or roof of the mouth, which is mostly present from birth.


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