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Peacekeepers conduct free cleft lip surgery in Somalia


Doctors from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) are conducting the operations in partnership with the international cleft lip charity, Smile Train, and Washington-based Company, Bancroft Global Development.

It is hoped that the camp will benefit over 100 patients in the region.

Team leader, Dr. Col. James Kiyengo, said the medical camp will benefit both children and adults.

“We are also going to do cleft palate surgery and also we are training doctors of Kismayo General Hospital on how to conduct cleft lip surgery,” said Kiyengo

Cleft lip and palate is a condition that occurs when a baby’s lip or mouth does not form fully during pregnancy. It can either be a small or large opening that goes through the lip to the nose, making feeding and speaking difficult.

Somalia is slowly reconstructing after decades of conflict, little has been spent though on improving public health, education or infrastructure so far.

The high cost of treatment and lack of specialists in the country means many patients are not able to access the healthcare services they need.

Treatment often entails two or three operations and involves various specialists, including therapists, psychologists, dentists and odontologists working together to ensure the surgery is successful.

Dr. Kiyengo says the exercise is expected to help address some of the challenges faced by residents with cleft lip problems.

Many children with the condition often grow up ostracized by society.

“These cleft lips are a problem because the child cannot play with other children, he cannot go to school, he is not comfortable with neighbours and when he grows up he can’t marry or get married and after that he cannot even work because some people cannot employ him, so when we do one cleft lip we solve the problem for the family of the child; he can get employment so his family is going to exist and get supported,” he said.

“I brought him [child] from Bula Haji town which is about 90 kilometres from Kismayo, and thank God, his operation was successful and I hope he will get even better treatment. There is noticeable change, because initially the lip was open but it has been corrected. I expect a lot more improvement but for now, he is healthy and will get better,” said Mohamud Kuresh Ibrahim, a parent.

AMISOM deployed to Somalia in 2007 to help restore order and defeat the Islamist militant group al Shabaab. It is credited with pushing al Shabaab out of many towns in south-central Somalia, strengthening the hold of the Somali federal government.

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