Smile Train, a nonprofit organisation has revealed that over 6,000 babies are born with cleft annually in Nigeria.
Nkeiruka Obi, Programme Director, West and Central Africa Smile Train, made the disclosure Monday during a media workshop organised by the organisation in Nasarawa State.
Quoting World Bank Data, she said, "6,186 children are born yearly with cleft in Nigeria."
She said cleft occurs when certain parts of the body do not fuse properly during fetal development, adding that it can involve both the lip and palate.
She said the biggest challenge about cleft is lack of awareness thereby leading to stigma and myths about the disease.
She said Smile Train is the world's largest cleft-focused organisation with a model of true sustainability providing training, and resources to empower local medical professionals in over 70 countries to provide over 100% free cleft surgeries and other forms of essential care in communities.
Obi said the organisation has done over 1.5 million surgeries since its inception.
Dr Seidu Adebayo Bello, a surgeon and Director, Cleft and Facial Deformity Foundation, Abuja in his presentation titled 'Understanding Cleft Lip and Palate' said the cause of the disease is unknown.
However, he said the two major predisposing factors to the disease are genetics and environmental factors. He said the environmental factors include alcohol, smoking, maternal age above 40, and drugs such as anticonvulsants among others.
"Genetic factor is a possibility in the cause of orofacial cleft and there are a lot of research going on in the field of genetics.
"Most of the predisposing factors are hardly seen among Nigerians. Majority of cases are isolated," he said.
Bello who is also a partner of Smile Train, said his organisation plans a cranofacial hospital for the poor in Mararaba, Abuja.
He enjoined the media to divorce the minds of the public on the myths surrounding the disease, saying cleft is pure developmental anomaly that could be corrected surgically.
He called for more support from the government and other organisations on cleft.
Paul Lobi, Smile Train Helpline Officer, said the objective of the workshop is working with the media in driving behavioural change among the community through empowering reporters with accurate information to help demystify cleft, as well as to raise awareness about Smile Train as a solution provider to the health sector.