Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that occur when a babyâ€™s lip or mouth do not form properly. Together, these birth defects commonly are called â€œorofacial clefts.â€ These birth defects happen early during pregnancy. A baby can have a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or both.
Children suffering from cleft lip and cleft palates often have problems with feeding and talking. They also might have ear infections, hearing loss, and problems with their teeth. If they attend school they are often teased by their peers, forcing them to hide in their homes in isolation and shame. Most children suffering from clefts never finish school, making it extremely difficult to find gainful employment as they get older, leaving these children and their families in a lifetime of social and economic poverty.
Cleft lip, with or without cleft palate (CL/P), and isolated cleft palate (CP) are serious birth defects which effect approximately 1 in every 600 newborn babies worldwide. This means that, assuming 15,000 children are born per hour worldwide (United States Bureau of the Census, 2001), a child is born with a cleft somewhere in the world approximately every 2Â½ minutes. From birth to maturity, children with orofacial clefts (OFC) undergo multidisciplinary surgical and non-surgical treatment with considerable disruption to their lives, and often with adverse psychological consequences to themselves and their families.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) the causes of orofacial clefts among most infants are unknown. Some children have a cleft lip or cleft palate because of changes in their genes. Cleft lip and cleft palate are thought to be caused by a combination of genes and other factors, such as exposures in the environment, maternal diet, and medication use. Recently, CDC reported on important findings about some factors that increase the risk of orofacial clefts: smokingâ€•women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have a baby with an orofacial cleft than women who do not smoke. Diabetesâ€•women with diabetes diagnosed before pregnancy have been shown to have an increased risk of having a child with a cleft lip or cleft palate. Orofacial clefts sometimes can be diagnosed during pregnancy, usually by a routine ultrasound. Most often, orofacial clefts are diagnosed after the baby is born. However, sometimes minor clefts (e.g., submucous cleft palate and bifid uvula) might not be diagnosed until later in life.
Having a baby born with a cleft can be upsetting, but cleft lips and cleft palates can be corrected. In most babies, a series of surgeries can restore normal function and achieve a more normal appearance with minimal scarring. However, these medical interventions require a highly specialized medical team that many countries in the world donâ€™t have.
Children suffering from cleft lips and cleft palates are a major impediment for the health and psychological wellbeing of the child and could have life altering consequences for the entire family. The corrective surgeries for these birth defects require a highly specialized medical team of various specialties, from a surgeon to anesthesiologists and in many cases orthodontic work is also needed.
The IMANA Medical Relief (IMR) is building a global network for its SaveSmile surgical missions with volunteers of plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, pediatricians, family practitioners, emergency medicine staff, dentists and medical students. To date IMANAâ€™s SaveSmile surgical team has performed approximately 500 cleft lip reconstructions with great success.
IMANA is a pioneer in the progress of cleft lip medical care in Sudan, empowering physicians to work together in providing free cleft surgeries to children in need of our support. IMANA provides sufficient medical aid, to help these families in distress take a step forward towards a better life. We are providing children born with clefts, the same opportunities in life as a child born without them; brightening smiles throughout Sudan, and ultimately giving these children a transformation that not only impacts them, but their families as well.
Our next medical mission trip is March 2014 in Khartoum Sudan. IMANAâ€™s SaveSmile mission trip could be the most life changing volunteer opportunity you may ever experience, for you and the child that you bring a smile.
Volunteer or make a donation today to SaveSmile and give a child a second chance. For more information, visit www.imana.org.