40 patients to undergo free cleft surgery at Nyeri Referral Hospital

Smile Train Senior Program Manager East Africa Joseph Kariuki holds Baby Victor alongside Dr Saidi Shaban Plastic and reconstructive Surgeon and Dr Pauline Kamau, Medical Superintendent of Nyeri County Referral Hospital during the World Smile Day. [Courtesy, Smile Train]

About 40 patients are set to undergo free cleft surgeries at the Nyeri County Referral Hospital.

The announcement was made today as the hospital in partnership with Smile Day hosted celebrations for beneficiaries of free cleft surgery in commemoration of the annual World Smile Day.

The hospital’s Medical Superintendent Dr Pauline Kamau said the surgeries will be conducted between November 24 and 25, 2023.

Kamau said the cordial partnership with Smile Train had played a key role in helping the hospital clear the backlog of patients with clefts who seek treatment at an advanced age.

“The Hospital is keen on improving its service delivery to all who need it. Thanks to our collaboration with Smile Train, we continue to clear the backlog of patients with clefts who show up for treatment at an advanced age. We are hosting the World Smile Day celebrations today to call upon more patients to come for free treatment,” Kamau said.

Her sentiments were echoed by the  County Executive for Medical and Health Services Dr Joseph Maina who urged communities to shun the stigma surrounding clefts.

While affirming that Nyeri County Referral Hospital provides free cleft surgery all year round, Maina called upon community health promoters to enhance awareness and referral for patients who are being hidden.

“We have deployed 2510 highly trained Community Health Promoters to carry out sensitization campaigns within the community about non-communicable diseases. Smile Train has also supported the training of CHPs to identify and counsel cleft-affected families. Today, we are encouraging the trained CHPs to be on the lookout for children born with clefts and bring them for treatment here, which is available all year round,” said Maina.

Smile Train senior programs manager East Africa Joseph Kariuki commended the partnership with Nyeri County Referral Hospital for providing quality surgical and anaesthesia care in the community.

“Smile Train is committed to investing in surgical capacity at hospitals such as Nyeri County Referral Hospital so that quality surgical and anaesthesia services are within reach of the families in need. Through our collaboration, we are going an extra mile to provide comprehensive cleft treatment, which is holistic and helps the children to thrive,” said Kariuki.

In 2020, Smile Train upgraded the pediatric wing of the hospital to include a plastic and maxillofacial surgical theatre, two recovery wards, and a children’s play area which offer a more relaxed recovery atmosphere.

In addition to surgery, the hospital provides comprehensive cleft care services including speech therapy and nutrition therapy to enhance the quality of life of the patients.

Research by the Lancet Commission shows that approximately 143 million surgical procedures are needed yearly in the world which shows a significant burden facing the Paediatric population.

In Kenya, a recent study titled Paediatric Perioperative Mortality in Kenya revealed that the mortality rate of paediatric procedures is 100 times higher than in high-income countries.

The causes of clefts are still unknown, but it could be associated with environmental factors such as genetics, certain medications, and smoking.

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