ISLAMABAD-The Islamabad Cleft Lip and Palate Association is all set to build a well-equipped hospital here to treat cleft lip and palate patients on voluntarily basis.

A piece of land has been acquired for the purpose and construction work on it will be started soon, this was announced at the end of a day-long medical camp organised here Sunday by ICLAPA, said a press release.

The ICLAPA, a body of volunteer doctors and social workers engaged in a humanitarian task, hoped that philanthropists would come forward to help in early construction of the hospital, which would cater the needs of patients suffering from cleft lip and palate. The treatment would be provided by a team of local and foreign doctors free of charge.

A group of doctors, who treated the patients at the camp, pledged to continue to serve the patients so that they could lead a normal life. About 30 patients, mainly children, were examined at the camp; most of them had travelled from far-flung areas for the purpose.

Some of the patients would be operated upon next week at a local hospital, however, major surgeries would be conducted in the month of June by a team of Chinese and local doctors, the press release said.

“We are providing volunteer services to the patients for the last many years,” stated ICLAPA President M Aftab.

The ICLAPA President said that his organisation had been providing free medical facilities to the poor families since 2004 with the support of families, friends and well wishers.

Prof Farhat Akhtar said that the ICLAPA was a group of volunteers, which relied on donors to bring hope and happiness in the lives of people, for whom it was financially difficult to give treatment to their kids. The noble mission was initiated by her late husband Dr Akhtar Rehman.

Dr Azhar, who leads the team comprising Dr Zahida Ahmad, Dr Ayesha Aslam and Dr Maidah Hanif and other junior doctors, explained the complexity of the deformity and the treatment process.

Delay in treatment of suffering children could lead to speech, behavioural and psychological problems making them vulnerable in society. Nearly 10,000 children with these deformities are born every year in Pakistan and alarmingly about 200,000 kids with these deformities are waiting to be operated upon, he said.

Cleft lip occurs more frequently than cleft palate. Boys are more commonly affected by only cleft lip or cleft lip with cleft palate whereas girls suffer more from cleft palate. The causes of cleft lip and palate are still unknown; however, it is believed that it is due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors or as a result of exposure to viruses and chemicals during the development of the foetus.

Problems in eating or feeding, ear infections, hearing loss, speech impairment, dental issues and social isolation are also issues associated with such deformities.

As planned, the ICLAPA will also provide general paediatric and mother and child care facilities at the planned hospital. It will also offer physical and speech therapy needed for the rehabilitation of cleft lip and palate patients.