Smile Train is the world largest cleft-focused organisation of providing training, funding and resources to empower local medical professionals in 70 counties to provide free cleft surgeries and other form of essential care in local communities.
Mrs. Nkeiruka Obi, the Vice President and Regional Director, Africa, Smile Train who disclosed this at the opening session of a media workshop underway in Kumasi, said her organisation partnered with the Ghana Cleft Foundation to conduct the surgeries.
The Smile Train is organising the two-day workshop, first of its kind in the country, on the theme “the role of the media in cleft awareness in Ghana”.
It seeks to empower Journalists as key stakeholders, to intensify community awareness on cleft and other essential care and services.
Mrs Obi explained every three minutes, a child was born with cleft saying “given that the cause of cleft is not clearly identified, the possibility of it going away anytime soon is rare”.
“What this entails is that concerted efforts must be made in ensuring that no child born with cleft suffers any form of deprivation” she said.
Unarguably, Mrs Obi said the myth surrounding cleft had starved many of the right information about the condition and mentioned poverty as another factor that had adversely affected this course.
“For many families in developing countries, early surgery may not be an option, due to lack of financial resources, qualified medical personnel and other factors.
“Realizing these gaps, Smile Train indeed stepped in to identify the families around the world and provided them with safe and free surgeries so they can live healthy and productive lives”, Mrs Obi stated.
Smile Train, Mrs Obi explained started operations in the country in 2017, saying it required active support from the media to double its reach in the coming years, putting more children than ever before on track to a better future.
“It is in the light of this and bearing in mind the critical role the media plays in the attainment of any goal that we seek to partner with you as critical stakeholders of Smile Train Comprehensive Cleft Care program”, she said.
She added the NGO had trained a lot of medical professionals and continues to retrain them as a strategy that guaranteed quality cleft surgeries in the country.
Professor Peter Donkor, the President of the Ghana Cleft Foundation expressed appreciation to the Smile Train for its continuous support to the foundation towards performing surgeries and transforming the lives of cleft children in the country.
Prof Donkor who is also the President of the West African College of Surgeons said he was hopeful participants would be imparted with the requisite knowledge to position them well to impact local communities.
Dr Solomon Obiri Yeboah, a Surgeon at the Kumasi Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) said an estimate of 300 to 400 cleft cases were recorded annually in the country adding there were a backlog of untreated cases as well.
He expressed concern about stigmatization and discrimination of patients and their mothers due to superstition and in founded myths and theories associated with cleft in the Ghanaian society.
Dr Yeboah, a Senior Specialist in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, said though causes of cleft was unknown, it remained a medical problem, and appealed to the media to scale up public education to help control the stigma.