Help for children with a cleft lip in Uganda

27 September 2020

Children with a handicap run extra risks in Africa. The health care in romote regions is bad. Because of taboos and superstition these children are at an even bigger risk to neglect and social exclusion. We take children with a physical handicap in our regular sponsor program and offer extra medical car and attention among which children with a cleft lip.

Medical consequences of a cleft lip

A cleft lip is an innate abnormality where the child’s lip, the jaw or the palate has not closed properly during the pregnancy. This abnormality occurs at 1 to 2 out of 1000 people. Cleft lip has an influence on the looks of the child, but can also have consequences for the nutrition, hearing, speech, nose and teeth. What the consequences are exactly depends on the severity of the abnormality. A cleft in the palate can have serious consequences. These children often find difficulties with (breat)feeding. The child can not suck well and drinking a from bottle or breast fails.

Social consequences of a cleft lip

Children with a cleft lip often suffer from stigmatisation and superstition. A mother told me that villagers advised her after the birth of her son, not to feed the child so it would die. A child with a cleft lip could exhaust her breast permanently, so she would never be able to feed another baby. Neglect of killing handicapped children often occurs in local communities in Karamoja. Fortunately this mother decided to flee with her child.

Children with a handicap often face difficulties at school. A 7 year old boy from Kaabong told us that he feels at ease at home, but at school he is bullied. He really wants to be helped.

Our approach:

Medical care: We work with CoRSU, a hospital in Entebbe, specialised in car for children with a handicap. We take children to CoRSU and pay (partly) for a good treatment. Our translator and counsellor together with the parents, stay during the entire hospitalisation of the children. The scar will never be totally invisible, but the children with a cleft lip look much better after they have had surgery. This has an enormous impact on their self-confidence and self-esteem.

Accompaniment of parents and child. We think it important to have a talk with the parents or care-takers of handicapped children. These children need just as much love, attention, and confidence as any other child. They want to participate and deserve the chance on an independent life as far as possible. We often involve role models when we prepare them for life. A handicapped woman in Amudat talked with a handicapped child and her family. The family learned that the girl could accomplish more than they actually thought and by means of simple adjustments, she could even help at home. The gilr felt useful and feels much better now.

Information. Classmates, neighbours, church members and teachers ought to realise that children with a handicap want to learn, play and discover. The only get a real chance to participate when prejudices and stigma’s disappear and they are accepted and embraced. We involve role models and local leaders actively to inform communities.

At this moment 42 handicapped children in Karamoja wait for medical care, of which 6 children with a cleft lip. Will you help us to offer these children a better future ?

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