Meru County partners with smile train to offer free cleft treatment

Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital Chief Executive Officer Dr. James Kirimi alongside nurse, Dorothy Kinoti prepare baby Angel for her cleft lip and palate surgery as the Hospital officially rolled out the free cleft surgeries at the Hospital. Global cleft charity Smile Train has partnered with the County Government of Meru to avail cleft surgeries for free at the Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital (MeTRH).
Global cleft charity Smile Train has partnered with the County Government of Meru to avail cleft surgeries for free at the Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital (MeTRH).

Speaking during the inaugural cleft camp, Smile Train Vice President and Regional Director for Africa Dr. Esther Njoroge-Muriithi noted that myths and misconceptions that surround cleft continue to hinder access to free surgery which takes less than hour. She urged the community to visit the facility and register to receive treatment at no cost.

“There is still a huge backlog of patients lacking access to safe and quality surgeries. Patients born with cleft are often isolated and stigmatized due to lack of awareness about cleft lip and palate. We have invested in capacity building of the cleft ecosystem which includes Community Health Volunteers, nurses and surgeons to ensure that they administer high-quality care for children undergoing cleft surgery at community level. Patients can therefore receive treatment on a regular basis at MeTRH,” noted Dr. Njoroge-Muriithi.

Global cleft charity Smile Train has partnered with the County Government of Meru to avail cleft surgeries for free at the Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital (MeTRH).

Cleft lip and palate is categorized as one of the neglected surgical diseases which when treated can bring economic prosperity to the country. The mobilization to map out and register patients for surgery began in February 2019 with training of community health volunteers courtesy of Henry Family Advised Fund under The Global Alliance for Surgical, Obstetric, Trauma, and Anesthesia Care (G4 Alliance). The local surgeons will continue to build their capacity through the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA) and Mount Kenya University.

On his part, MeTRH Chief Executive Officer Dr. James Kirimi acknowledged the public private partnership, noting that it improved the quality of healthcare at local level.

“The Government is committed to achieving Universal Health Coverage and reach more than 7,000 Kenyans with cleft lip and palate. Our medical team has received training in cleft care and we look forward to continuous capacity building of our team. We urge patients to shun stigma and isolation of cleft patients since treatment is now readily available and for free,” said Dr. Kirimi.

According to the G4 Alliance, an estimated 5 billion people live without access to safe, and affordable surgical and anesthesia care. Safe surgical care is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and universal health coverage. Every year, 17 million people die preventable deaths due to neglected surgical diseases.

Cleft lip and palate is a common facial birth difference that affects one in 700 globally. Its cause remains unknown, but it is associated with genetics, nutritional deficiency (inadequate folic acid), smoking and drinking, and taking medication without prescription during pregnancy.

Smile Train has been actively supporting programs in Africa since 2002. In that time, the organization has developed local partnerships with more than 245 partner hospitals and 255+ medical partners in 38 countries throughout Africa to provide free cleft treatment. To date, Smile Train’s local medical partners have provided more than 113,000 life-changing cleft surgeries across Africa.