Liberia: OHAI Launches Cleft Assistance Program

The Oral Health Advocacy Initiative (OHAI) has launched an assistance program here for cleft patients, aimed at helping people especially, kids with the sickness.

Oral Health Advocacy Initiative is a Pan-African Non-Governmental Organization that was established with a mission to advance the course of oral and dental health delivery in Africa, through advocacy, strategic partnership, and community mobilization.

During the launch in the conference room of the House of Representatives Thursday, July 30, Country Director HilenenAben said, the mission of OHAI is to create public consciousness about oral health that results in comprehensive health care delivery in Liberia through advocacy, strategic partnership and treatment of oro-facial diseases.

Mr. Aben stated that OHAI will partner with the government and other stakeholders through the direct implementation of integrated programs, targeting the most vulnerable people and will progressively shift towards building national health capacity to manage and carry out cleft interventions and corrective surgeries for sustainable health security here.

"Children and adults who are living with these defects are confronted with series of difficulties in the communities, including stigma and discrimination by the members of the communities. They are also confronted by direct complications such as difficulties in feeding, ear infections and hearing loss, dental problems, and speech difficulties among others. It is our aim that everyone would have adequate knowledge on these deformities and desist from harmful practices such as excessive alcohol intake, tobacco and to encourage pregnant women to go for regular medical check-ups", he said.

According to him, as the launch of OHAI in Liberia, they are also honoring the national cleft and craniofacial awareness and prevention month of July, 2020. The most common birth defects are those that affect the skull or facial bones such as cleft lips and palates.

"These happen when parts of the developing face fail to fuse in the early months of pregnancy. Cleft lip affects the facial appearance of a child and it is not a well-known condition, especially in the rural communities. Often times, when babies are born with any form of deformity, including cleft lip, they are assumed to be cursed. Sometimes they're accused of being witches, and most often, these children are literally thrown into the jungle to die to avoid the wrath of the gods," he added.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives Chairman on Health Joseph Somwarbi thanked the group for its far-sightedness and great relief the program has brought to Liberian children. He expressed the willingness of his committee to working with the group in achieving its goals.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Jonathan Browne

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