By Lubem Gena, Abuja
A passionate call have been made for an increased awareness about cleft lip and palate condition, a birth difference in which the patient experiences difficulties in breathing, eating and speaking.
This call was made by Smile Train, World’s largest cleft organization, after a 2-day national media workshop held in Abuja from Monday, 22nd-Tuesday, 23rd August, 2022 during which it sought media support towards dispelling myths and misinformation surrounding cleft even as its cause is yet unknown but is associated with environmental factors including genetics, alcohol and drug abuse.
Emily Manjeru, the Public Relations and Communications Manager for Africa at the organization however said, “if left untreated, children who grow up with cleft are stigmatized and bullied and unable to thrive”.
The media workshops which will course through Nigeria’s cities of Abuja, Enugu and Lagos aim to enhance the knowledge and strengthen the capacity of cleft among the trainees.
“This being the second year we are carrying out the media workshops, we recognize the significance of sharing accurate information with the media to enhance behavior change in the community. We need to continuously sensitize communities that cleft is not a curse and courtesy of Smile Train, treatment is free across Nigeria through our network of 45 partner hospitals. The media are a key stakeholder in creating this awareness,” she said.
The Abuja component of the workshop brought to the fore pertinent issues affecting safe, timely and quality surgical care among vulnerable groups, the need for more collaboration between medical partners, institutions and government that prioritize the patients with cleft. Key among them include the implementation of the National Surgical Obstetrics Anaesthesia and Nursing Plan (NSOANP), in which Smile Train is collaborating with the Ministry of Health to identify the surgical needs. NSOANP has recently proposed the introduction of free surgical emergency care into the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA).
“We urge the media to push for publicity of these critical issues because they affect many underprivileged communities. Doing so will bring them to the attention of the policy makers,” said Prof. Emmanuel Ameh, Co-Chair, NSOANP Implementation Committee and Pediatric Surgeon at the National Hospital of Abuja.
The participants were also retrained on enhancing their craft by seasoned journalists. On his part, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Abuja Chapter Mr. Emmanuel Ogbeche urged the journalists to immerse themselves in the workshops and play their role in advocating for quality healthcare.
“We are grateful to Smile Train for the training since it will upskill health reporting in Nigeria including sharing accurate information about cleft. I encourage journalists to also be a part of advocating for quality healthcare by sharing impactful stories,” the release quoted Mr. Ogbeche while declaring the event open.
“Smile Train has active cleft care programs in 41 countries across Africa with more than 245 partners and over 255 partner hospitals across the continent. In Nigeria, Smile Train programs started in 2007 having created smiles in over 30,000 beneficiaries to date. Through strategic partnerships at the local and international level, Smile Train dedicates itself towards providing funding towards quality healthcare capacity building and advocacy to increase access to safer surgeries and cleft care in low-and middle-income countries.
“Smile Train has made strategic investments in education and training including collaborating with Scottish Charity KidsOR, the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA) and the West African College of Surgeons (WACS) to provide scholarships in various categories.
Recently, Smile Train has broken ground in Ghana for Africa’s first Cleft Leadership Centre to build the capacity of cleft professionals to dispense global standards of care at local level”, Emily further explained.
News Headquarter reports that Smile Train empowers local medical professionals with training, funding, and resources to provide free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children globally. We advance a sustainable solution and scalable global health model for cleft treatment, drastically improving children’s lives, including their ability to eat, breathe, speak, and ultimately thrive.
Attached are some images during the workshop