By Raisa Okwaras
The County Government of Nyeri together with Nyeri County Referral Hospital worked with Smile Train Africa to bring smiles to the faces of children with cleft lip and palates by unveiling a new theatre for children born with the same.
The project was initiated in late 2020 with a budget of about ksh.20 million and is now bringing back smiles to children in the area.
Born in 1999, Smile Train Africa is an international organization working towards ensuring that every child born with a cleft has access to a healthy and productive life. Over the course of the years, Smile Train Africa has provided reconstructive surgery to over 1.5 million patients, including 10,000 children in Kenya.
According to Smile Train Africa, about 10,000 children are living with cleft palate in Kenya. Apart from the physical defacing that a cleft does to a child, there are other disadvantages that it brings. These include difficulties in eating, breathing, and speaking.
Due to the difficulty in feeding, most children born with cleft lip experience malnutrition. Reports show that one in ten children born with cleft lip die before getting to their first birthday because they are unable to feed properly.
However, even with years of research and sensitization, there are people still living with cleft lip and palate.
“But the problem is still there. There are still children suffering from cleft, and it is actually estimated that right now, over 10,000 children are still living with cleft lip and palate,” said Smile Train Africa Spokesperson.
The company has since found a way to reach people in Nyeri county to solve the cleft lip issue at no cost.
“We would like to reach each one of them and make sure they get cleft-related treatment that they need. And if they know this treatment is available here without payment we believe that we will be able to help them,” she added.
The theatre and its wards have been refurbished and its operations began earlier this month. It also has a cleft lip children’s play area to help ease the unsettling hospital environment and make it child-friendly.
“What would happen is those children would need to be repaired their cleft lip or palate would end up not having the priority because we would have to settle for emergencies. But now, they have their own theatre and they can make their own program on when to operate these children,” stated a staff of Nyeri County Referral Hospital.
The theatre is now open to accepting cleft-lip patients, including children, from different parts of Kenya.