200 Ghanaians to benefit from free cleft lip, cleft palate surgery

Come December 1 to 10, 2011 volunteers from Ghana and around the world will hold a large-scale medical mission in Accra to address the surgical needs of Ghanaian children and adults suffering from facial abnormalities.

Dubbed “Operation Smile”, the exercise will specifically provide free corrective surgery to between 120 and 200 Ghanaians suffering from cleft lips and cleft palates at the Ridge Hospital in Accra.

Being held under the umbrella of the Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Services, “Operation Smile” says it is committed to the creation of programmes leading to the self-sustainable treatment of cleft lip and cleft palate pathologies, through capacity-building and working within the existing cleft infrastructure in Ghana.

A press release from the United States Embassy in Accra announcing the exercise, says “Operation Smile” organises, executes, and pays for the logistics of the programmes with assistance from international and local community partners, including Lions Club, World Vision, Coconut Grove Hotel and Church of Latter Day Saints.

It explained that the missions consist of two full days of screening, where each child will be seen by each specialty followed by five days of surgery, where anywhere from 120-200 patients will receive free surgery.

This, the release said, will be conducted by a large multi-disciplinary team of 50 medical and non medical volunteers, adding that a small post operative team will remain in Accra following the end of the mission to assess the patients.

Adding to that, a medical team will return every six months to assess the follow up needs of the patients, including additional surgery, speech therapy, and dental care.

Patients from around the country are expected to be brought by bus from the nine regional hospitals in Ghana and screened by the multi-disciplinary medical team on December 2nd and 3rd, the statement said, adding that in order to secure free transport to Accra, patients are required to pre-register before the 11th of November, from 9am to 5pm between Monday and Friday, by calling 0302 674 393.

According to organisers of the exercise, patients chosen for surgery should expect to stay for ten days, will be provided free meals and accommodation and after November 11, 2011, patients should plan to arrive at the Ridge Hospital for screening on December 2nd and 3rd.

Explaining the rationale for the medical exercise, the organisers said, one in 1,000 babies is born each year with a cleft lip and/or a cleft palate, and one in 10 of these children die before age one due to the inability to feed, since Cleft lips are lips that are not fully formed and cleft palates are holes in the roof of the mouth.

They said it is to assist in addressing the surgical needs of Ghanaian children and adults suffering from such facial abnormalities, that “Operation Smile’s” team of international and Ghanaian medical volunteers is coming to Ridge Hospital in Accra from December 1st – 10th to provide free corrective surgery.

“In order to change the lives of Ghanaian children and to conduct capacity-building programmes for sustainability, ‘Operation Smile’ cordially invites individuals, companies and organisations to help Ghanaian children suffering with facial deformities and to join the organisation in creating new smiles. ‘Operation Smile’ is looking to create long term relationships in order to provide the free surgical and related health care to these patients for many years to come,” the statement added.

Responding to queries on the number of countries involved in the medical outreach, the cost and some notable surgeons taking part, media contact for “Operation Smile” Kia Guarino said “We are currently operating in 60 countries and the cost varies per country. We work to get the majority of items donated and/or sponsored by community partners, but the expenses incurred per country vary on the overall costs of that country. There are a number of very well known and respected surgeons in our volunteer base.”

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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