By Tendai Guvamombe
Smile Train, an international children’s charity have joined hands with the local media in raising awareness on Cleft Palate, a condition that has brought more harm than good to a considerable number of children in various parts of the globe.
The development comes amid World Health Organization(WHO) reported a prevalence rate of approximately one (1) case in every 700 live births.
A myriad concern is on the treatment of the condition which mainly affects roof of the month and lip of babies thereby causing abnormalities in feeding and speaking.
It also emerged that most kids are growing up to full grown adults without seeking treatment to the condition. This is attributed to lack of knowledge, awareness and this is rampant in developing countries.
Against this background, Smile Train have made positive strides in providing free surgical assistance to thousands of Cleft Palate patients in various communities.
Today there are many patients who have received free treatment and are living testimonies as the condition has past thier way.
The Media Training Workshop held in Harare from 5th to 6th November 2020 helped to unpack pertinent issues around Cleft Palate and building a nexus between the Fourth Estate(media) and Stakeholders.
It emerged that journalists and media practitioners from different newsrooms were lacking basic information regarding the Cleft Palate condition.
This had also compromised its coverage within the media space.
During the engagement journalists had the opportunity to interact with two different parents who gave thier testimonies of how thier children received free Cleft Palate treatment from Smile Train.
Lona Mutsena mother of David Junior Urayai from Zengeza 1 Chitungwiza explained they way her husband’s relatives used to mistreat her due to the condition of her little son. They would labels her a witchcraft who wanted to case her own child.
“Before I met Smile Train my life was so miserable and the only strength was my husband who took to give his own name to the child. This was after he noticed the way our relatives were hurting me regarding the condition he was suffering from. They would call me a witchcraft who wanted to eat his own child,” she said.
Today the little David is now able to go to school in a normal life after receiving free surgery treatment from Smile Train. She had never anticipated that one day that the mouth of her child would be restored to normalcy.
“We never thought that Cleft Palate is a condition without cure but today my child received free treatment from Smile Train and indeed smile is now all over our faces. Before the treatment my child used have complications in eating and speaking but today he is now able to do both without having challenges,” she added.
The participants also had another testimony from other parents whose children were looking forward to receive free surgical treatments from Smile Train. This hadna huge impact to the media fraternity.
Farai Marumani a journalist with Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation(ZBC) said the workshop was an eye opener to the media fraternity as they now have all the relevant information and tools in reporting Cleft Palate issues.
“As journalists we feel enlightened through Smile Train Media Workshop on Cleft Palate condition. It also served as an eye opener to us. We are going to prioritize Cleft Palate in our daily work executions,” he said.
According to Smile Train Programme Manager, Southern Africa Sibusisiwe Shyna Yona the engagement with journalists from media houses is a stepping stone in building capacity to them. This would also help in creating an awareness roadmap with the media in the country.
“The engagement with Journalists from different media houses is meant to sensitize them through capacity building. This would in turn clears a roadmap for them to play a leading role in raising awareness on Cleft Palate condition in Zimbabwe,” she said.
Cleft Palate is a common birth condition which can occur own its own and sometimes as a genetic condition. It is largely noticed with visible splits on the upper lip of the month.
Some cultural norms and values stood as a stumbling block to the treatment of young children. It is anticipated that media plays a leading role in educating the public through awareness on the importance of getting free treatment.
It is very certain that surgery treatment help restores normal functioning of the mouth with little complications.