11 August 2006
Children and young adults in KwaZulu-Natal who were born with facial deformities such as cleft lips and palates are set for a new lease on life.
The KwaZulu-Natal department of health and international volunteer organisation Operation Smile have embarked on a free corrective surgery campaign.
Department spokesman Leon Mbangwa said on Friday that Operation Smile would screen possible patients at various hospitals in the province next week. “Once they have been assessed by the whole team, [the department] will decide which children require operations,” Mbangwa said.
The operations will be conducted at Ngwelezane Hospital in Empangeni from 7 to 16 September.
Operation Smile is a medical services organisation that provides reconstructive facial surgery to poor children and young adults. Natalie Miller of Operation Smile South Africa said the campaign would give children born with such defects a new beginning.
Miller explained the deformities, saying a cleft lip was a separation of the two sides of the lip which sometimes included the bone of the upper jaw.
“A cleft palate, on the other hand, is an opening in the roof of the mouth in which the two sides of the palate did not join together.”
A cleft lip or palate originates some time between the sixth and 11th week of pregnancy, when parts of the lip or palate fail to come together properly.
Miller says everybody has cleft lips and palates in the womb. “Some join together and others do not. Why some do not, we may never know.
“Sometimes clefts can be found in families who have had clefts in other family members. Some clefts can be linked to certain syndromes,” she added.
What mattered, however, was that they could be repaired.
The provincial health department has urged people who know of affected children or young adults to contact the KZN Operations Centre on 0800 005 133.
The centre will advise people on where to go for a pre-screening and medical evaluation.