The New Times (Kigali)

20 February 2013

Rwanda: Scores to Get Free Cleft Lips Surgery

Over 100 people with cleft lips are set to benefit from free reconstructive surgery to be conducted at the University Central Hospital of Kigali (CHUK).

The free surgical programme which starts on February 22 to March 1, was organised by Operation Smile, a non-profit volunteer medical services organisation providing free reconstructive surgery.

A cleft lip is a malformation where the lip has not fused together and fully formed and looks like a gap in the upper lip while a cleft palate is a hole in the roof of the mouth.

Out of every 1,000 babies born in the region, one is born with a cleft lip or palate, according to Kia Guarino, the Operation Smile Programmes Manager in Africa.

Operation Smile will be operating on people with this deformity for the fourth time since 2010.

According to Guarino, more than 500 people found with cleft lips and palate were operated upon in 2010 when the organisation first came to Rwanda.

Currently, there's no national data showing the status of this disease in Rwanda but Guarino said they are working together with the Ministry of Health to ascertain the number of people who have this deformity.

She added that Operation Smile team won't only provide surgery but also provide basic life support training to Rwandan medics.

"So far, 256 local medical professionals have received this training, 10 medics have also been trained as trainers and others as Aesthesia Technicians. We want to build capacity such that in the near future, many Rwandan medics will be in position to carry out these surgical procedures," she said.

Dr Immaculate Kamanzi, the head of the dental surgery department at CHUK, explained that people are usually born with this disease and in most cases, the cause is unknown.

"Although most times the causes of this deformity are unknown, other causes could be pollution or genetic, for instance, if parents had the genes then their children are likely to suffer the same," she said and urged parents to ensure proper feeding on balanced diet as one of the preventive measures.

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