Islamabad-A team of Chinese doctors will arrive from Beijing to operate 40 children suffering from the congenital condition of cleft lip and palate during a free medical camp in the capital from March 21 to 26.

During the camp at a local hospital, the operations will be carried out free of charge and the Chinese doctors will be assisted by Pakistani doctors and paramedics. Many of the children, who were identified for the operations at screening camps arranged on February 17 and March 3, belonged to poor families which could not bear expenses of the operations. The children belonged to Balochistan, Sindh and areas of Swabi, Dargai, Karak and Haripur in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and some were from Taxila and Mianwali in Punjab. A representative of Islamabad Cleft Lip and Palate Association (ICLAPA) Zainab Suleman told APP that children suffering from cleft lip and palate need timely medical treatment as the condition also affected them psychologically.

She said they treat children as young as few months old to those who have reached adolescence. ICLAPA Focal Person Prof Farhat Akhtar Rehman said out of every 530 live births, one Pakistani child was born with a cleft lip or a cleft palate or both.

Cleft lip and palate could lead to further complications if a child was not treated at an early age, usually three to six months for cleft lip and 11 to 12 months for a cleft palate. Founding Member of ICLAPA M Aftab said his organization had been providing free medical facilities to the poor families since 2004 with the support of families, friends and well wishers. Prof Farhat said 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 treat their children. 

Delay in treatment of the 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. 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 issues associated with the deformities among children.

Presently about five patients are being treated every month by the ICLAPA team. The surgeries are carried out using facilities of different hospitals. ICLAPA organizes free surgery camps three to four 4 times a year, providing life changing treatment to children.

For ICLAPA, the need for having an independent state-of-the-art hospital has now become all the more necessary. Therefore, ICLAPA’s Board of Trustees is working on a project of a dedicated and modern hospital for cleft lip and palate patients.