NW Regional Assembly, Smile Train engage community health workers to identify cleft cases

Participants at the workshop
Some 84 community health workers in the North West region have been schooled on how to easily identify cleft lip and palate and offer cleft care to patients in their communities.

This was the focus of a two-day workshop organized by Smile Train, a charitable organization, in partnership with the North West Regional Assembly. The training took place on Thursday September 28 and Friday 29 in Bamenda.

The community health workers selected from  20 health districts in the North West region were drilled by experienced Doctors on the prevalence of cleft lip and palate in the North West region, challenges faced by cleft lip patients, identification and how to refer them for treatment and the use of cleft care companion application to register patients.

Dr. Yaa Sakah Fondufe Lydia 
Commissioner for Health and Social Development 

Sitting in for the President of NWRA, the event was chaired by Hon. Dr. Yaa Fondufe Sakah Lydia, Commissioner for Health and Social Development, who was representing the President of the Regional Assembly. Also present was the National Representative of Smile Train Cameroin, Ngang Sharon, and a cream of seasoned  doctors from the Mbingo Baptist hospital who served as workshop  facilitators.

Hon. Dr. Yaa Fondufe Sakah Lydia, 
Commissioner Health and Social Development, NWRA

According to the representative of the Regional Assembly president, Hon. Dr. Yaa Fondufe Sakah, the training comes after Smile Train signed a partnership with the institution on 26 January 2022 to maximize efforts to enhance awareness about cleft care in the region.

Dr. Yaa Fondufe Sakah further highlighted that the training will go a long way to change the narratives in the entire region by increasing access to free cleft care to all patients and to reduce the stigma surrounding cleft.

"Community health workers have proven to be key players and excellent model in the health care sector, as they are able to reach individuals and households in isolated communities. Their involvement and support in service delivery tasks can result in significant successes," Dr. Yaa Fondufe Sakah explained.

Ngang Sharon, Program coordinator, Smile Train, Central Africa

Ngang Sharon, representative of Smile Train told the community health workers that their job is to identify all cases of cleft in their communities and refer them to their partner refferal health faclility - Mbingo Baptist hospital, where they shall be treated for free, thanks to the partnership with this  charity organization.

Dr. Ngock George, paediatric surgeon,  Mbingo Baptist hospital

According to one of the facilitators, Dr. Ngock George, paediatric surgeon at the Mbingo Baptist hospital, cleft lip is repaired when the baby is at least 3 months of age and weighs 5kg and above.

Dr. Ngock added that even persons with cleft who are above 15 years can be repaired at the Mbingo Baptist hospital for free.

Dr. Acha Evaristus, ENT surgeon, Mbingo Baptist hospital

In his own presentation, Dr. Acha Evaristus, ENT surgeon at Mbingo Baptist hospital  revealed that 1 in 750 babies in Cameroon are born with cleft.

He further explained that cleft has to do with Children born with a gap or a split in their lip or the roof of their mouth. The gap on the lip is called a cleft, while the gap on the roof of their mouth is called a cleft palate.

Dr. Acha added that cleft can be inherited as gene from parents, environmental-that's poor early pregnancy health or exposure to toxins such as alcohol  and smoking.

Happiness Ndifon, Nutritionist, Mbingo Baptist Hospital

According to Happiness Ndifon, Nutritionist at Mbingo Baptist Hospital, it is very crucial to give nutritional support to cleft care patients and care givers. 

The Surgeons also revealed that children and persons living with cleft always face difficulties in eating, breathing, hearing and speaking. They added that some of the children always feel isolated and stigmatised.

By VictoryMarshal Ayafor Basang


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