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OHAI-Liberia Conducts Left Cleft Lip Operation In Southeastern

Oral Health Advocacy Initiative (OHAI) last week conducted successful surgeries on children who were born with left cleft lips in Maryland, Grand Kru, River Gee and Grand Gedeh Counties.
Parents, especially the mothers were seen in jubilant mood following the successful operations while some sang praises unto the Lord for being the unseen driver during the surgical operations on their kids.
The surgeries which commenced from the 2nd of March and ended on the 19th brought a new birthday to children who benefited from the free medical services.
These parents are hopeful that a successful operation would mean that their children will not be stigmatized again in their respective communities.
“Thank God, his operation was successful and I hope he will get even better treatment. There is clear change, because initially the lip was opened but it has been corrected. I expect a lot more improvement but for now; he is healthy and will get better,” one of the beneficiaries, Mary Brown said.
Oral Health Advocacy Initiative is a Pan-African Non-Governmental Organization that was established with a mission to advance the course of oral and dental health delivery in Africa, through advocacy, strategic partnership and community mobilization.
Speaking at the end of the surgeries, Oral Health Advocacy Initiative Team head, Hilenen Aben said the free cleft surgeries targeted children and adults.
“We are not only conducting the cleft surgery, we have also trained health workers of the J.J. Dossen Hospital on how to care and conduct cleft lip surgery,” Mr. Aben stated.
“Children and adults who are living with these defects are confronted with series of difficulties in communities, including stigma and discrimination by members of communities. They are also confronted by direct complications such as difficulties in feeding, ear infections and hearing loss, dental problems, and speech difficulties among others. It is our aim that everyone would have adequate knowledge on these deformities and desist from harmful practices such as excessive alcohol intake, tobacco and to encourage pregnant women to go for regular medical check-ups,” the head of the international none governmental organization intimated.
According to Mr. Aben, Cleft lip is a condition that occurs when a baby’s lip or mouth does not form fully during pregnancy. It can either be a small or large opening that goes through the lip to the nose, making feeding and speaking difficult and even cause stigmatization of the person.
“The child cannot play with other children; the children cannot go to school; he or she is not comfortable with neighbors and when they grow up, they can’t marry or get married easily and after that they find it difficult to get work because some people cannot employ them because of their health status, so when we do one cleft lip we solve the problem for the family of the children”.
The Three-day cleft operation has benefited about 45 patients, some of whom were from other counties in the southeast region of Liberia.
All of the parents of these patients could not hold back their excitement after the exercise appeared largely successful.
“When I gave birth to Annie Karmanu, my daughter and a Cleft Patient in late 2020, and discovered that her mouth was not opened so I immediately called the nurses at that time to find out what was the cause, and they told me that my daughter has a cleft lip, so I immediately felt discouraged,” Victoria Kamanu, 34, of Harper explained.
She said the surgery was “timely and has given hope to many other parents”. “I am very happy that my child’s mouth has been reconditioned by these Doctors,” she added.
For him, Mark Wilson, 21, who had a cleft lip said that he is now thankful to the doctors for the surgery.
“Sometimes I can feel embarrassed and ashamed of myself, and asked God: ‘questions why I should come on earth with this kind of sickness?” a student of the J.S. Pretty High School in Harper expressed. “At some point in time I almost lost hope because of the constant stigmatization from my peers. I am grateful that I was successfully operated on by these doctors today. I can now go in my community and play with my friends without being afraid anymore,” another patient stated.
Meanwhile, Maryland County Health Officer, Dr. Methodius George has lauded the effort of Oral Health Advocacy Initiative for coming down to Maryland County to conduct the surgeries.
Dr. George, however, outlined some of the causes of the deformities in children with cleft lip saying,“ These happen when parts of the developing face fail to fuse in the early months of pregnancy. Cleft lip affects the facial appearance of a child and it is not a well-known condition, especially in the rural communities, oftentimes when babies are born with any form of deformity, including cleft lips.”

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