Although his mates in school tolerated him, he always felt the stigma surrounding his unique deformity, especially whenever there was a new pupil or teacher in the school, making him skip school regularly to avoid the taunts.

doctorsCleft lip contains an opening in the upper lip that may extend into the nose. The opening may be on one side, both sides, or in the middle.

A cleft palate has an opening in the roof of the mouth stretching into the nose resulting in feeding problems, speech problems (sounding nasal), hearing problems, and frequent ear infections.

Treatment for the cleft lip alone costs at least 1,000 U.S. dollars, while a person with both conditions needs at least three surgeries and other forms of care, including speech therapy and psychological care, which all come with their separate costs and a huge burden for most families.

Available data indicated that one out of every 1,000 births in Ghana suffers from either cleft lip or cleft palate or both. But cleft care was not in Ghana until 20 years ago.

Fortunately, thanks to the benevolence of the international medical charity, Operation Smile, Tetevi and over 600 other victims have received treatment in the form of plastic surgery to correct these deformities at no cost by April, this year.

For that reason, when the medical charity pitched camp at Ho, 155 km north-east of the capital, the former beneficiary of the free cleft care was on hand to assist the team in his little way during the mission.

Tetevi expressed so much gratitude to the medical charity group for giving him the new lease of life which has enabled him to stay in school without the stigma he used to suffer.

Besides, he can now communicate audibly and eat without difficulty.

The international charity medical group between Monday (November 23) and Friday (November 27) performed free reconstructive surgery for an additional 162 children and adults to correct the cleft lip and cleft palate which is the third most common birth defect worldwide.

They were screened from all over the country as part of the November mission by the charity organization.
Operation Smile expanded its reach to Ghana in 2011 and has since then worked under the umbrella of the Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Service.

It had before the latest mission conducted six medical missions in the country providing free life changing surgery for over 600 Ghanaian children and adults.

The medical Charity funded the screening, transportation, accommodation and feeding for the patients together with one family member for each of them.

“At the end of this current mission, we would have taken care of 762 cleft victims in Ghana,” said Dr. Opoku Ware Ampomah, Director of the Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and Burns Centre of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, in the capital (Accra) who is head of the multinational volunteer mission.

He explained that the team had targeted to carry out 120 surgeries on this mission but had to increase it to 162 due to the huge numbers that came for the nationwide screening.

Some 20 local Ghanaian medical doctors and 50 foreign professionals of various nationalities, including medical doctors, psychologists, nurses, and speech therapists as well as other related professionals took part in the current exercise.

“Victims are usually stigmatized, with child victims finding it difficult to stay in school due to the stigma, while some families think they were cursed or are witches, and some infants with the condition are even abandoned by their families,” Dr. Ampomah pointed out.

“We want the whole world to understand that cleft is a condition that can be corrected and have victims restored to dignity,” he said, explaining that while cleft lips can be fixed at any time in life that of palate must be fixed early before children start developing speech.

Sabrina Ghiddi, Regional Manager, West and Southern Africa for Operation Smile, said the total package was aimed at lowering barriers to care.

“Operation Smile provides free transportation, accommodation and meals for every patient and guardian that comes to the mission. The last one, in April 2015, confirmed a remarkable need for cleft care in Ghana.”

“Operation Smile is committed to strengthen local capacity in Ghana in order to perform local missions on a more frequent basis to eradicate cleft in the country hence we are delivering training to local medical professionals and securing the needed equipment,” Ghiddi added.

Medical Director of the Volta Regional Hospital, Dr. John Tampouri, said the Regional Hospital had the mandate to provide the health needs of the people of the region and so would welcome any expertise that would facilitate or enhance their delivery on this mandate.

He described the experience with Operation Smile as a wonderful one, and pledged to have a Maxillofacial Surgeon at the University of Health and Allied Sciences to train with the charity in order to acquire the skills of cleft care. Enditem

Source: Justice Lee Adoboe / Xinhua


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