AT least 75 percent of recipients of cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries conducted at a Harare hospital are referrals from Manicaland, The Manica Post has leant.
The free care services which are offered by the Ministry of Health and Child Care in partnership with Smile Train, a development partner that primarily treats cleft lip and cleft palate congenital deformities, have seen Manicaland leading in awareness campaigns.
In an recent interview as awareness campaign road-shows were being the conducted across Mutare, Southern Africa Programmes Director for Smile Train, Ms Sibusisiwe Yona said plans are underway to decentralise the services to Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital.
“We will decentralise as we are trying to bring the services closer to the people. We do not only provide free surgery to these children, we also cover their transport costs from wherever they will be coming from as we want the children to receive treatment,” she said.
“This medical condition can be treated and parents of children who have cleft lip and cleft palate should seek our services. Those children need to be brought to hospital so that they get medical attention for free,” she said.
Ms Yona said there is need to raise awareness among parents with children who have the medical condition to seek medical attention early as there is a stipulated timeframe for a child with a cleft lip to be operated on.
“We start at three months after birth and we encourage parents to bring in their children before they turn eight years as it will still be easy to give them speech therapy,” she said.
Ms Yona also said there is need to stop discrimination against people who have cleft lip and cleft palate, adding that the condition is medical, not spiritual.
A parent to a cleft palate surgery recipient, Ms Mary Tambuka thanked the organisation for facilitating the operation of her two-year-old son.
The boy was having trouble in feeding as food would come out of his nose a result of the hole inside his mouth.
“He was losing weight and I thought he could not be saved until I heard about the free surgery option, I am so grateful,” she said.
She encouraged other parents to take their children to hospital for treatment.
At least 250 children are estimated to be born with the condition in Zimbabwe every year.
However, only a small percentage receive treatment.