Operation of Hope team rescues children with cleft lip

Operation of Hope doctors attend to a child who had a cleft lip at Harare Children's Hospital on Wednesday

THE United States volunteer surgical team, Operation of Hope, was at Harare Children’s Hospital yesterday screening children to benefit from its free facial reconstructive surgery this week.

BY Aaron Ufumeli

The 19-member team, which comprises doctors, surgeons, paediatricians and nurses, is on a mission to carry out free surgical repair for children suffering from cleft lip and cleft palate .

Team leader Jennifer Trubenbach told NewsDay they were targeting between 50 and 75 patients before they wind their mission at the end of this week.

“We have visited Zimbabwe 15 times and we are celebrating nine years this year. We are excited that there are local doctors helping us out,” Trubenbach said.
Cleft lip and cleft palate occur when tissues in the baby’s face and mouth fail to form properly.

Normally, the tissues that make up the lip and palate fuse together in the second and third months of pregnancy.

But in babies with cleft lip and cleft palate, the fusion never takes place or occurs only partially, leaving an opening. The opening is what is called cleft.

A cleft lip can be corrected by trimming the tissues and sewing of the lip together, leaving minute scars. In Zimbabwean culture, children born with cleft lips are sometimes shunned by their immediate families.

Some of the potential beneficiaries of the operation said they were happy to be selected as the surgery had the potential to change their lives.

“I am so happy and cannot wait to see my child’s new look, ” said Joice Masabeya, who travelled from Chimanimani with her child Kupakwashe.

However, during the screening exercise, some children with poor weight were being turned away because the surgery would be risky for them.

Local beverage company Schweppes is assisting the team and the patients by providing free drinks and food for the duration of the operation.

“We have been helping out for the past five years and this year we are continuing in the same breath because some of these patients have travelled long journeys to come here,” said Schweppes general manager marketing and public affairs Unaiswi Nleya.