Abu Dhabi, UAE: More than a dozen children with cleft palates and lips could benefit from corrective surgeries when the first mission of an international medical charity begins operations in the UAE early next year, a senior official said in the capital on Sunday.
The international volunteer-based charity, entitled Operation Smile, offers free corrective surgeries for cleft conditions, and is also inviting donations for the UAE mission, Morag Cromey-Hawke, executive director at Operation Smile, told Gulf News.
“We hope to offer the surgeries in early 2014. At present, we are conducting an awareness campaign throughout the UAE in order to build a database of children with cleft conditions. We have already heard from families of about 30 individuals who have cleft lips or palates,” Cromey-Hawke said.
The mission also received a donation from the Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel and Resort, amounting to more than Dh26,000. The funds were collected during the hotel’s popular charity flea market in June 2013, in which 100 exhibitors paid to rent tables that allowed them to sell second-hand items.
According to the 30-year-old organisation’s website, every three minutes worldwide, a child is born with a cleft. These clefts can cause frequent ear disease and dental problems, and prevent proper development of speech in children.
Patients are also likely to have difficulty eating. Moreover, children may find it difficult to socialise, and some are even shunned or rejected.
“We hope that we will be able to provide care for as many children as possible. The focus will be on offering treatment to children whose families cannot afford the surgeries,” Cromey-Hawke said.
Cleft lip surgeries are generally recommended for babies after the age of three months, whereas procedures to correct a cleft palate should be done between the ages of 12 and 18 months.
“These surgeries can also be successful later. But procedures to repair a cleft palate are most successful if undertaken before patients are in their mid-teens,” Cromey-Hawke explained.
Around the world, each operation typically costs Dh880 per individual, and lasts about 45 minutes.
Cromey-Hawke added that the UAE mission will also have an educational component to build on the expertise and knowledge of medical personnel in the UAE.
© Gulf NewsJul 2013