Operation Smile Kenya has provided free cleft lip and palate surgery to thousands of babies, young children and adults as well.
In 2021 December, we conducted a short surgical program in collaboration with the Thika Level 5 Hospital in Kiambu through which we assessed 62 cleft patients and 28 surgeries carried out successfully. Again in May 2022, another Short Surgical Program saw 16 patients operated on.
Cleft patient surgical sequencing is ongoing at the Kenyatta National hospital with an average of three surgeries per week and at the Coast General Hospital set to commence soon.
Our patients’ care doesn’t stop after their life-changing surgery. Cleft care is more complex than one surgery. It involves:
- Pre-operative care to ensure patients are fit for Children born with cleft conditions sometimes struggle to breastfeed, which can lead to life-threatening malnutrition. When malnourished children fail our comprehensive health evaluation, they miss out on surgery.
- Post-operative care, which includes recovery, nutrition, patient advocacy, dental care and speech therapy.
Patient Advocacy Program
Community health volunteers (CHVs) and Patients Advocates have also been vital in sensitizing and creating awareness about cleft conditions. In October 2022, 50 CHVs were trained on cleft conditions and misconceptions, their roles in patient identification and patient management, nutrition in children with cleft and cleft feeding, code of conduct and reporting.
Since then they’ve played a key role in identifying, referring and demystifying misconceptions about clefts in their communities and basically walking the journey with the cleft patients.
Following the ongoing active patient recruitments by CHVs and Patient Advocates, several children with malnutrition are occasionally identified, hence the need for nutrition care. In this regard, we carried out a training for nutritionists at one of our partner health facilities, Kenyatta National hospital. Nutritionists were trained on nutrition assessment, Operation Smile nutrition assessment tool, nutrition assessment follow up tool used to check in with patients in between full nutrition examinations, importance of breastfeeding, breastfeeding positioning and follow up, amongst other topics. Currently there is ongoing nutrition review at the facility and Operation Smile provides recommended nutrition supplies for children with malnutrition.