CLEFT lips and cleft palates affect many children in Afghanistan. In this issue of Sada-e Azadi, we look at the problems cleft lips and palates cause, and the help that is available.
What is a cleft lip? And what is a cleft palate?
A cleft lip is a split in the upper lip. A cleft palate is the split in the roof of the mouth.
What causes cleft lips and palates?
These birth defects tend to occur in cultures and societies in which people who are close blood relatives have children together.
What problems do cleft lips and palates cause?
Initially, the child will have trouble feeding. Later on, the child will find it difficult to learn how to speak. Cleft lips and palates also cause psychological problems because of the cosmetic deformity.
Is there an operation to fix cleft lips and palates?
The good news is yes there is an operation to treat cleft deformities and it can be done for free in Afghanistan at the CURE International hospital in Kabul. Surgeons there have performed more than 1,000 such operations in the past three years. The child must be at least three months old before the before the surgery is done. The actual surgery is very quick but a hospital stay of about a week is usually required. If the child has both a cleft lip and a palate two operations about three months apart will be done.
Will the surgery leave a scar?
There is a little scarring but the surgeons at CURE are among the best in the world. And if the case looks too complicated to be performed in country, the child will be transported to Italy and be operated on there.
Are there any other post-operative issues?
Yes. When older children and adults have the procedure done, they find it difficult to speak properly because their previous deformity meant they never learned to talk. Speech therapy is often an important part of the post-operative process. CURE is hoping to bring in volunteer consultants on a regular basis to provide this therapy.
How can I find out more about CURE?
To date, most people have found out about CURE via word of mouth. Indeed, surgeons find they often operate on many children from one village. Cure will launch an awareness-raising campaign later this year but you can always call Cure at 0799 88 38 30 and ask to speak to the patient services manager.