Cleft-lip and palate patients in Kitui County can now breathe a sigh of relief following the set-up of a specialized surgery Unit at a cost of Sh 2.3 million.
The Unit which was funded by Smile Train in partnership with the Jordan Hospital in Kitui Town is set to offer free corrective surgical procedures to babies born with congenital deformities besides adults suffering from rare conditions.
Speaking during the launch, Tuesday, at Jordan Hospital, the Lead Surgeon, Dr. Joshua Matu, said that Smile Train in collaboration with the Hospital had undertaken 550 corrective cleft-lip surgeries in Kitui County at a cost of Sh 93.5 million.
“With many patients seeking surgical care at our facilities, children are often neglected when it comes to accessing quality surgery. The operating rooms breathe fresh air into the hospital’s surgical department, and children are able to recover in a more comforting environment,” said Dr. Matu.
“The procedure normally costs Sh 170, 000 which is unaffordable among the majority of families in Kitui, but through Smile Train donor funding, we are able to treat patients free of charge,” said Dr. Matu.
The Lead Surgeon said that although the condition is hereditary, nutritional deficiency among expectant mothers remains the leading cause for such cases.
“Due to poverty levels in Kitui, most expectant women are unable to afford a balanced diet or access proper nutritional supplements which negatively affects fetal development,” noted Dr. Matu.
He said that, if not corrected between three months to one year, the child will experience eating, breathing, hearing, and speech difficulties, resulting in stigma and low self-esteem during childhood and even into adulthood.
Dr. Matu also regretted cases in which parents and guardians of cleft-lip and palate patients hide them from the public and even fail to take them to school for fear of being ostracized by the community amid myths and misconceptions of witchcraft.
Smile Train East Africa Programme Manager, Joseph Kariuki, called on parents and guardians not to shy off from seeking treatment that is available in designated facilities countrywide.
“Every child with a cleft lip needs more than just surgery, they may also need orthodontics, speech therapy, or nutritional support. Smile Train has conducted over 10, 000 surgeries in Kenya with an annual turnover of 800 to 1, 000 surgeries,” said Kariuki.
Kariuki said the State-of-the-Art pediatric operating room and recovery ward have been outfitted with the latest medical equipment.
The ward has colorful wall art of animals, trains, and balloons designs that are meant to transform the often intimidating environment of an operating room into a welcoming, child-friendly space.
“The new operating room will not only allow surgeons to enhance their skills in caring for children but also significantly impact the lives of the children we aim to transform through surgery,” noted the Programme Manager.
He said that children with easily treatable surgical conditions, like cleft lip and palate, can receive high-quality, life-saving care when they need it the most.
Smile Train beneficiary, Purity Mutei, said that her son Caleb Mumo was born with the cleft-lip condition in 2018 at the Kitui County Referral Hospital.
Mutei’s fears were allayed after being counseled and advised to seek free surgical treatment at Jordan Hospital, “I was unable to breastfeed my son properly, he will spill the milk through the nose after suckling,” Purity added.
“The young boy has undergone life-transforming surgeries at the facility. He is due to his last constructive surgery to rectify a fistula that has formed on his upper palate under the care of Dr. Matu,” she said.
Mutei urged parents and caregivers with children or adults with such conditions to seek medical help at the facility in a bid to help them regain their self-esteem and lead normal lives.
“Socially and culturally, children with cleft lip and palate conditions are stigmatized. I am relieved for the help I have received for my son,” added the 24-year-old mother.