Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray has shunned bullying of patients with cleft, calling for more empathy and early treatment through partner hospitals of the world’s largest cleft charity, Smile Train.
Miss Gray who concluded her two-day visit to Kenya had the chance to interact with patients and savoured Kenya’s hospitality while making a clarion call that ‘All Smiles are Beautiful’. Her visit is part of Miss Universe Organization’s partnership with Smile Train to raise awareness of the issues faced by children living with unrepaired clefts in the developing world.
The relationship provides opportunities for the reigning Miss Universe and international titleholders to get involved with Smile Train’s global initiatives in the 90+ countries where the charity provides free and comprehensive care. After her reign as Miss Universe, Catriona has now become the Smile Train Goodwill Ambassador globally.
“Patients with cleft not only experience difficulties breathing, eating, and speaking but they also suffer long-term psychological trauma from social stigma. With treatment, children with clefts can overcome these challenges to live a happy, healthy life. Last Friday, we celebrated World Smile Day to share hope and love to patients with cleft. Throughout the month of October, let us carry the message that all smiles are beautiful, showing compassion and creating awareness of the bullying patients experience. Let us also encourage parents to take their children to receive free treatment across Kenya,” said Miss Gray during a press conference.
Smile Train Vice President and Regional Director for Africa Mrs. Nkeiruka Obi added that Smile Train, unique model of “teach a man to fish” has proved time and again that it is the best model of partnership and sustainably empowering local medical professionals to provide the best of care within the local communities.
“Cleft treatment, however, requires a holistic, patient-centred approach and that is the reason Smile Train keeps investing in building local capacity so that patients with cleft receive quality comprehensive care all year round in their own communities. This has indeed helped in strengthening healthcare and building a resilient surgical system in Kenya and Africa as a whole. Patients no longer need to wait for fly-in mission doctors to receive treatment as care is brought closer to their doorsteps,” she said.
On her part, Smile Train Program Director East Africa Mrs Jane Ngige-Muturi called for more efforts in advocacy for patients to receive early intervention of cleft care.
“Smile Train provides treatment for patients of all ages; we however recommend that they receive treatment at infancy stage for them to grow up and live healthier and be better integrated into society. Children can receive treatment as early as 3 months and the surgery which only takes at least 45 minutes shows immediate transformation,” said Mrs. Ngige-Muturi
It is estimated that 1,300 children are born with cleft in Kenya every year. Smile Train has been in Kenya since 2002 and has so far provided comprehensive care to over 10,700 patients who continue to live productive lives.
Smile Train invests heavily in capacity building of cleft professionals including surgeons, nurses, orthodontists, anaesthetists, nutritionists, speech therapists and community health volunteers to provide sustainable and quality healthcare systems at local community level. The charity has over 245 partner hospitals and over 255 partner surgeons across 40 countries in Africa.