By Munashe Makuwe
SMILE Train, an international non-governmental organisation, is bringing smiles to over 250 children in Zimbabwe annually after operating them for cleft deformation.
Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that occur when a baby’s lip or mouth do not form properly during pregnancy.
In Zimbabwe, due to high medical costs, most parents fail to pay for cleft operations and have had to rely on organisations such as Smile Train for help.
Smile Train is a US-based none-profit organisation established in 1999 and dedicated to cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries world-wide.
“In Zimbabwe, at least 250 children undergo cleft surgeries per year while across the globe, we carry out 15 million medical operations,” Sibusisiwe Shyna Yona said.
She said in Zimbabwe, most of the operations were done on children from Manicaland province.
“We have noticed that most patients come from Manicaland province. This can be due to environmental factors or genetics as it is something they are still trying to figure out,” said Yona.
Smile Train has also taken time to raise awareness on people living with cleft giving them the chance to open up and seek help that will change their lives.
A cleft lip is the opening or deformity on the upper lip or nose of a new born baby.
The primary aim of Smile Tran is to surgically repair and restore normal function and speech development to minors affected by this “surgical disease”.
“It is not a curse but rather a birth defect which is very common,” said Yona.
Parents who have children with cleft problems can visit Harare Central Hospital now known as Sally Mugabe for help. All cleft operations are free of charge.