Smile Train partners caused ripples across Nigeria — Africa’s most populous nation — in November with the National Cleft Stakeholders Forums, aimed at providing sustainable, local cleft treatment in every part of the country.
The Forums’ theme, “Planning for Sustainable Comprehensive Cleft Care,” served as an educational program for addressing the challenges children with clefts face — including surgical, speech, dental, and nutritional needs — as a first step towards increasing their access to free, quality care across the country.
At the first of the Stakeholders Forums, Prof. Adetokunbo Adebola noted that babies born with clefts required special attention to live normal and healthy lives, before going on to discuss his overall goals for the event: “The Forums will educate stakeholders on the nature and challenges of clefts and provide information on how to access care and promote close interactions while sharing ideas and experiences.”
The two-day Forums were held on different dates in each of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones: North West (Kano), North Central (Abuja), North East (Gombe), South West (Lagos), South South (Port Harcourt), and South East (Enugu).
A wide variety of stakeholders attended, representing nearly everyone involved in the cleft care journey, including primary health care workers, traditional rulers and community leaders, religious leaders, cleft surgeons and educationists. A total of 300 participants were impacted by the national forum.
At the close of the Forums, the Chief Medical Director of the National Hospital of Abuja, Dr. Jeff Momoh, called for including cleft treatment in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), to the great relief families who lack the resources to pay for needed cleft care.
"I call upon the stakeholders to propose all-encompassing cleft care, where the child will eventually get all the care and follow-up they need until finally discharged. Health insurance will be the best way to capture it,” he said.
Throughout the Forums, Smile Train worked to foster collaboration among Nigeria’s many initiatives for children with clefts, including committing to research and development for making cleft lip and palate surgery more sustainable in Nigeria and restarting the Nigerian Association for Cleft Lip and Palate.
Smile Train has sponsored more than 25,000 cleft treatments in Nigeria since 2002.