More than 200 medical experts from 24 African countries recently gathered in Nairobi, Kenya to share the latest ideas and innovations in comprehensive cleft care at the 6th Scientific Congress of the Pan African Association of Cleft lip and Palate (PAACLIP).
PAACLIP Congress Secretariat Dr Meshach Ong’uti felt the conference was incredibly timely, as more and more Kenyans are in need of support. “Most insurance companies, including our National Hospital Insurance Fund, do not cover clefts, as they are considered congenital and the surgery and treatment is not affordable to many.” he said.
In her opening statement, Smile Train CEO Susannah Schaefer addressed Dr Ong’uti’s concerns saying, “PAACLIP is pivotal in continent-wide cleft care, especially in engaging and lobbying for the inclusion of cleft care in national surgical strategies and plans — I can assure you that Smile Train will always offer our support to this end.” Next, Schaefer shared that Smile Train Africa was nearing a momentous milestone, “Your unwavering commitment to helping children with clefts has helped nearly 100,000 children from Africa go on to live healthy, productive lives.”
Smile Train Medical Advisory Board Chairman Dr Larry Hollier Jr. shared how training opportunities have led to growth worldwide in 2017. He said, “Smile Train’s training programmes have grown and evolved to provide training systems for surgeons, anaesthesia providers, nurses, and other related healthcare professionals — we’ve surpassed 30,000 cleft training and education opportunities worldwide. With this increased capacity and growth, our partners in Africa completed more than 11,900 safe and free surgeries last year.”
Dr Esther Njoroge, Smile Train’s Vice President and Regional Director Africa, agreed that sustainable empowerment programmes, like PAACLIP, have increased capacity for local medical partners in Africa. “Training is a core part of our vision — we value and prioritise opportunities to learn from our colleagues. The medical professionals we work with around the world are committed to continuing education, with the goal of always improving our standard of cleft care for patients and communities at large,” she added.
On Sunday, Smile Train Partner Nairobi Hospital offered a surgery workshop with a video feed of seven cleft surgeries streamed live to the congress hall. A group of Africa’s top surgeons had a chance to share skills, and seven cleft patients received free cleft surgery. Nairobi Hospital pledged the patients will receive follow-up treatment, orthodontic care, and speech therapy as needed.
Dr Njoroge felt this year’s PAACLIP was the best to-date, as the addition of comprehensive cleft care professionals added to the conversation of how to achieve best outcomes. The added presentations on Smile Train’s work globally gave partners a better understanding of the vast network of resources Smile Train offers. She said that one first-time participant said, “PAACLIP made me even prouder to be a Smile Train partner — I had no idea the huge impact we are creating globally.”
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