Cleft Lip and palate is a congenital abnormality that occurs between the 4th and 7th weeks of pregnancy whereby the child’s upper hard and soft palate fail to unite during development. As a result, a midline ridge is left in the mouth up to varying degrees. The etiology (causative agent) of cleft lip and palate is still largely unknown despite the anomaly being one of the most common congenital abnormalities affecting new born babies (Approximately 1 in 700 live births worldwide).
There are different variants of the cleft lip and palate depending on the extent of the mal-union, ranging from a unilateral cleft lip alone to a bilateral cleft lip and palate.
Not only does the disorder affect the appearance of the child, but it also affects the suckling reflex, speech and also results in recurrent ear infections. In addition, majority of these children have trouble socializing and result in loneliness and depression. In most instances, the diagnosis of cleft lip and palate is made after the child is born. However, in some rare cases, whereby the cleft palate is not clearly visible, the diagnosis can be made during childhood.
Surgical treatment restores the child back to normalcy by repairing the defect. This ensures that the child is able to lead an active and normal life. In addition to the surgical repair, it is necessary that the child gets rehabilitated in order for them to be able to speak, hear and talk, as well as achieve a normal facial structure.
These children will also require additional assessments after the surgery. Dental reviews and speech therapy are very fundamental since it is not a one day affair unlike the surgical process. These are continuous and core to the wholesome treatment of children with cleft lip and palate.
Despite the anomaly being treatable, still thousands of children still continue to live with cleft lips and palates. These children are kept away from the other children and develop being socially awkward. Additionally, it is unbelievably true that some African communities point witchcraft as the cause of the anomaly. Despite the financial constraints affecting the developing countries in Africa, some hospitals have managed to team up with some surgeons and organize free medical camps for the treatment of cleft lips and palates.
We should end the stigma that comes with bearing children with cleft lips and palates. Since it is treatable, spread word and encourage a mother or two to take their children for treatment. Spread the word!