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A chance to breastfeed

For children like Shukuru Hassan and his mother, feeding time can be a struggle. Shukuru was born with a cleft lip, which means that the tissue that makes up the lip did not join completely before birth.

Every three minutes a baby is born with a cleft. Most babies with a cleft lip are not able to breastfeed or use standard bottles because they cannot create the suction needed to draw the milk out, which in many cases leads to poor weight gain and further complications.

Without surgical intervention, children born with cleft lip and palate may not only have trouble feeding, but also dental, speech and hearing problems.

In high-income countries, cleft lip is normally operated on within the first three to six months of a child’s life. In contrast, the wait for a cleft lip operation in low- and middle-income countries is approximately five years, with some adult cases never being treated.

Shukuru’s family were delighted that he could get his operation so soon after birth and that they didn’t have to travel far to reach a hospital with an available Operating Room.

Shukuru’s operation was one of the first children’s surgeries performed in the newly installed Smile Train and KidsOR Operating Room at the Bugando Medical Centre, in Mwanza, Tanzania.

As we conversed with Shukuru’s mother, the children’s surgical waiting room was filling up with other families whose children also suffer from cleft lip about to undergo surgery.

All in all, a very successful Wednesday for the paediatric surgical team at Bugando Medical Centre, which includes our very first KidsOR scholar Dr Alicia Massenga.

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