As the world marks World Smile Day today, Smile Train has partnered with Nyeri County Referral Hospital to host celebrations for beneficiaries of free cleft surgery.

The event aims to create awareness ahead of a surgical outreach scheduled for November 24-25, 2023, where more than 40 patients are slated to receive free cleft surgery.

Speaking at the event, Nyeri Medical and Health Services CEC Dr Joseph Maina urged residents against perpetrating stigma against those suffering from cleft palates.

Dr Maina noted that Nyeri County Referral Hospital provided free cleft surgery throughout the year and asked Community Health Promoters to enhance awareness among the public.

“We have deployed 2,510 highly trained Community Health Promoters to carry out sensitization campaigns within the community about non-communicable diseases,” said Dr Kiragu.

He added, “Today, we are encouraging the trained CHPs to be on the lookout for children born with clefts and bring them for treatment here, which is available all year round.”

Smile Train Senior Program Manager for East Africa Joseph Kariuki lauded the alliance with Nyeri County Referral Hospital for providing quality surgical and anaesthesia care in Nyeri.

“Through our collaboration, we are going the extra mile to provide comprehensive cleft treatment, which is holistic and helps the children to thrive,” stated Kariuki.

In 2020, Smile Train upgraded the pediatric wing of the Nyeri hospital to incorporate a plastic and maxillofacial surgical theatre, two recovery wards, and a children’s play area.

Additionally, the referral hospital provides comprehensive cleft care services including speech therapy and nutrition therapy to enhance the quality of life of the patients.

“Thanks to our collaboration with Smile Train, we continue to clear the backlog of patients with clefts who show up for treatment at an advanced age,” added Nyeri County Referral Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Pauline Kamau.

According to research by the Lancet Commission, about 143 million surgical procedures are required globally per year and this lay a heavy burden on the Paediatric population.

In Kenya, a recent study titled “Paediatric Perioperative Mortality in Kenya” showed that the mortality rate of paediatric procedures is 100 times higher than in high-income countries.

The causes of clefts remain unknown, but it could be linked to environmental factors among them genetics, certain medications, and smoking.

Since 2002, Smile Train has partnered with more than 700 hospitals and 300 medical entities in 42 African countries to provide free cleft treatment and 170,000 cleft surgeries.

World Smile Day is commemorated on every first Friday of October in honor of Harvey Ball, who created the iconic smiley face in 1963.