Cleft lip and palate (CLP) is the commonest birth anomaly affecting the face of newborn babies. It affects all races worldwide and has a frequency of one in 2000 people, though the prevalence of the condition in Ghana is not well known.
Consequences of the condition include medical and developmental complications, stigmatisation, feeding, dental, speech, hearing, psychosocial and other challenges.
Briefing the media on a maiden conference on cleft lip and palate in Accra last Friday, the president of Ghana Cleft Foundation, Prof. Peter Donkor, said it brought together cleft providers for education, networking, and development of collaborators.
He said families from economically deprived backgrounds were commonly affected, but treatments were not only complex and costly, but usually prolonged.
He said the conference organised by the Ghana Cleft Foundation, in collaboration with Smile Train, “will lead to the creation of a national association, dubbed Ghana Cleft Palate/Craniofacial Association (GHACPA)”.
According to Prof. Donkor, the association would provide leadership and a unified voice on cleft related matters, and also spearhead awareness creation activities on cleft lip and palate, and encourage its members to undertake locally relevant research. Furthermore, he explained that it would partner with the Ministry of Health to set quality standards for provider training and certification, and the improvement of both outreach and facility-based services, and stressed that cleft care would become an important part of the national health agenda in the future.
Expressing concern about the situation, he said inadequate expertise and hospital-based treatment services were limited to only a few centres in Kumasi, Accra and Sunyani.
“It involves multiple providers such as surgeons, paediatricians, speech therapists, nutritionists, dentists, psychologists and social workers, among others,” he explained.
He said it was for this reason that some NGOs, including Operation Smile, Ghana Graft Foundation, and Ghana Cleft Foundation had joined hands to provide free surgical outreach treatment for affected children.
“Though this helps to address treatment needs, the care is not comprehensive enough to meet the full needs of affected patients. Furthermore, reliance on outreach services is not a sustainable national model for the provision of health services,” he bemoaned.
He said it was to address such challenges that the conference was held to come up with a systematic national programme as well as manpower development, continuous training, certification, and provision of facilities for victims to enhance quality healthcare delivery.