40 children receive cleft lip surgery

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United States-based Operation of Hope surgeons are in the country and have operated more than 40 children with cleft lip and palate complications.

BY AARON UFUMELI

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The operations, which began on Monday at Harare Children’s Hospital, were being done by a team led by Jennifer Trubenbach.

Cleft lip and cleft palate are facial and oral malformations that occur very early in pregnancy while the baby is developing inside the womb.

According to doctors, clefting results when there was not enough tissue in the mouth or lip area and the tissue available does not join together properly.

Many people’s lives locally have been transformed overnight through the operation they never dreamt they would afford.

Many of the beneficiaries come from poor backgrounds in the rural areas.

Fradrick Mugabe from Murehwa, whose child Kimpton was operated on Monday, said the programme had brought back smiles to many children.

“This programme is a welcome move and I wish these doctors would be making regular visits. This would help us,” he said.

Eleven-year-old Webster Mhandu from Gokwe, who was also operated on, said: “I was a laughing stock at school and I am so happy I now have a new look.”

A single cleft lip operation takes an average of three hours depending on the complication of the deformity.

One of the surgeons, Kevin Healy, said it was easier to deal with cleft palate in children compared to adults.

“The gap between the areas we work on a child is about 40% wide as compared to that of an adult, which will be 60% wide. Over the years, an adult would have developed their own way of speaking, therefore, any surgery will not improve their speech,” Healy said.

The surgeons will move to Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo on Monday through sponsorship by soft drinks manufacturer Schweppes Bottling Company.

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