HomeNewsCleft lip operations bring hope for Zimbabweans

Cleft lip operations bring hope for Zimbabweans


AT least 50 local children with cleft lip and palate complications are set to benefit from free surgeries being offered by a group of volunteer specialist surgeons from the United States’s Operation of Hope.

By Aaron Ufumeli

Ten-year-old Chipo Chingoroma of Mhondoro, Ngezi, who has a cleft lip deformity
Ten-year-old Chipo Chingoroma of Mhondoro, Ngezi, who has a cleft lip deformity

The medical team, led by Jennifer Trubennbach, arrived in the country last week and is based at Harare Children’s Hospital.

This is their 23rd visit to the country since 2006, where they have conducted free corrective surgeries on at least 5 000 people.

A cleft lip is a physical split or separation of the two sides of the upper lip and appears as a narrow opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip.

This separation often extends beyond the base of the nose and includes the bones of the upper jaw and/or upper gum. A person with such deformities often has problems in speaking and breathing.

This results in one having low esteem and confidence and a person with such a deformity is not generally accepted and is shunned in the community because it is considered a taboo.

The coming in of these surgeons has brought smile and joy to the patients who have been operated on.

A single cleft lip operation in the United States costs $35 000 and $80 000 if it is both cleft lip and palate operation.

“One in every 800 children is born with cleft lip or palate deformities and this, unlike what many people assume, can easily be treated,” Trubenbach said.

She said they offer services voluntarily and pay for their own travelling costs.

The group had similar projects in Malawi, Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea.

Michael Maropa, a father of 13-year-old Upenyu, who has a cleft lip deformity, expressed joy at this life-changing opportunity
“My son had become a laughing stock at school and even in the family. This was an issue and we are happy this will soon be a thing of the past,” he said.

Operation of Hope is carrying out its task in collaboration with four local partners — Schweppes-Zimbabwe, University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences, the Health and Child Care ministry and the Rotary Club.

Schweppes-Zimbabwe has been a major partner for the past seven years, providing support in communication, beverages and meals to patients as well as offering a team of local volunteers, who assist with the registration and screening of patients.

Schweppes-Zimbabwe general manager, Demos Mbauya said for them, this was the flagship of their community responsibility programmes.

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