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Cleft lip and Palate International Conference opens in Kumasi

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A three-day international scientific conference on cleft lip and palate has opened in Kumasi on Monday.

Dr Kwaku Agyemang Mensah, Ashanti Regional Minister, asked health practitioners to help demystify and remove the superstition associated with the disease so as to encourage parents to seek proper medical attention for their affected children.

He noted that most people tended to ascribe the medical condition to witchcraft or curses and some children born with this deformity were either killed or kept in obscurity because of stigmatization.

“Increasing access to cleft surgery and related services in Africa, strategies and opportunities” is the theme for the conference, which is being organized by the Pan African Association of Cleft Lip and Palate (PAACLIP).

Participants from 21 African countries and others from India, America and the United Kingdom were attending the event.

Dr Mensah said there was the need for aggressive public awareness programmes to calm the fears of parents and the public about the disease.

He said children needed best healthcare to enable them to realize their God-given potentials.

Dr Mensah said that any initiative that sought to provide healthcare for children must receive utmost attention from all stakeholders.

The Minister praised PAACLIP and Smile Train, a body seeking treatment for children with the deformity, for helping to build the capacity of local medical professionals to enable them to treat cleft lip patients in Africa.

He called for financial support for the association to enable it to give the needed services to the people.

The Minister of Health, Mr Joseph Yileh Chileh, in an address read for him, said manpower shortage coupled with the lack of appropriate infrastructure and logistics were preventing children with cleft lip from receiving the needed medical care in Africa.

He thanked the Smile Train for its support towards the treatment of cleft and palate conditions on the continent.

Mr Yileh Chileh appealed to practitioners to collaborate effectively with their international partners to help address challenges in the management and treatment of the deformity.

Dr Gitahi Githinji, a representative of Smile Train, said over 29,000 patients in 30 African countries, had since 1999, benefitted from the free cleft surgery under the Smile Train programme.

The goal of Smile Train is to ensure that every child born with cleft anywhere in the world was provided the opportunity to live a full and productive life.

It was, therefore, doing everything to empower local medical professionals to provide timely, free, safe, quality and cost effective treatment for millions of poor children around the world suffering from cleft lip and palate.

Dr Ohene Adjei, Chief Executive of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, said the lack of access to treatment, superstition and myth posed the biggest challenge to the management of the disease on the continent.

He stressed the need for African professionals to find customized solution to the challenges in cleft management while working hand in hand with their international partners.

Source: GNA

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