Research still on to understand cause of cleft lip/palate — NGO

  Smile Train, a non-profit organisation and charity that is providing corrective surgery for children with cleft lip and palate, says research is ongoing to better understand the condition.

The organisation’s Programme Director, West/Central Africa, Mrs Nkeiruka Obi, made this known in Keffi, Nasarawa State on Tuesday at a three-day Media Workshop with the theme “The Role of the Media as Tool for Reporting Cleft in Nigeria.’’

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that cleft lip and cleft palate are openings or splits in the upper lip, the roof of the mouth (palate) or both. Cleft lip and cleft palate result when facial structures that are developing in an unborn baby don’t close completely.

Cleft lip and cleft palate are among the most common birth defects, which commonly occur as isolated birth defects but are also associated with many inherited genetic conditions or syndromes.

The Smile Train programme director, who, however, noted that the cause of cleft lip/palate was not clearly known, noted that most experts agreed that the causes were multifactorial and may include genetic predisposition and environmental issues.

She identified the issues to include drug and alcohol use, smoking, maternal illness, infections, and the lack of Vitamin B, also known as folic acid.

She added that “in most cases, it is not known what causes a cleft lip and or palate, but research is ongoing to better understand the condition.’’

She expressed concern that children born with cleft lip/palate face eating, breathing, hearing and speaking difficulties.

She said that some babies born with cleft lip/palate were even abandoned by some parents because of fear of the anomaly.

She, however, noted that Smile Train was committed to changing the narrative in most developing countries including Nigeria, “where many people think that cleft was an evil curse and a bad omen.

“Families are afraid that the cleft will end up ruining their lives because of shame and stigma that follow babies born with the condition.’’

But Obi urged Nigerians to seek medical treatment, which includes reconstructive surgery, to alleviate the difficulties confronted with the congenital defection.

She added that all cleft surgeries funded by the organisation were performed by local doctors in local hospitals. (NAN)

“The surgery is simple and the transformation is immediate. Patients see their smile for the first time, parents cry tears of joy, and lives and communities are changed forever.’’She added that all cleft surgeries funded by the organisation were performed by local doctors in local hospitals. (NAN)