Adejoke Babatunde, a cleft care nurse and Speech Therapy Assistant at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), a partner of the global cleft organization, Smile Train, has described the care for cleft patients as fulfilling and a new process of learning.
Adejoke who has been helping to restore speech impairment of children born with a cleft made this comment while speaking to Journalists on post-surgical care for a child with cleft.
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“Caring for cleft patients entails specialised care in nursing the patient from infancy to adulthood. This includes a child’s feeding, speech therapy, hearing, dental development, facial growth, and psychosocial wellbeing.”
Smile Train has been doing a lot in not only providing free cleft care to patients in Nigeria, but has also been keen on community sensitization.
Smile Train in Nigeria has provided a toll free line to offer referral services, going the extra mile to establish a cleft e-registry system to map out the patients and type of comprehensive care they receive.
“The awareness of cleft lip and palate in Nigeria is still very low, and a great number of children born with this condition are still seeking help with no idea of where to get it from,” said Adejoke.
“The way forward is what the organisation has done in partnership with Federal Ministry of health to create an e-registry so as to have data of birth defects right from birth so that care is immediately activated.
Smile Train has made this care free of charge. They only need to get in contact with Smile Train, irrespective of the states they may be in.”
She added that myths surrounding cleft impede the family’s decision to seek medical attention, saying, “Some believe that the reason why they had a child with a cleft is because of something sinful they had done during pregnancy. Others believe that it is caused by the gods, or when the mother goes out in the night while pregnant, and encountered evil spirits. These are all lies and we must begin to educate society better that cleft is a congenital condition whose true cause is yet to be ascertained.”
Smile Train leverages the ‘teach a man to fish’ model of building capacity of local healthcare professionals. In Nigeria, Smile Train has partnered with the Speech Pathologists and Audiologists Association of Nigeria to train and deploy qualified cleft speech therapists like Adejoke to elevate the profession as well as ensuring global standards of treatment at community level.
While sharing more insights on cleft speech therapy and some of the challenges encountered during therapy, Adejoke noted that the most challenging aspect was the language delay for some patients and literacy level.
“The circle for speech therapy involves using a series of steps to enable the patient to speak better. However, irregular attendance by the patients for their speech sessions impedes the quality of life of the patient. We encourage parents to be consistent with the therapy sessions to yield better outcomes,” she said.
Smile Train has active programs in 40 countries across Africa, having created smiles in more than 120,000 patients since 2002. Smile Train has partnered with more than 245 partner hospitals and over 255 partner surgeons offering free, safe, timely and comprehensive cleft care.