The NWRA and Smile Train on Thursday January 26th 2023 signed a health cooperation agreement that provides free treatment of cleft lip and cleft palate for the population of the Region.
The landmark ceremony, which brought together stakeholders from the government, civil society actors, media, grassroots leaders and the population was presided over by the Representative of the State, Governor Adolphe Lele Lafrique.
The signed MoU, which officially establishes a strategic health cooperation agreement between both institutions, was signed by Prof. Fru Angwafo III, President, North West Regional Assembly and Dr. Nicole Bouba, Director of Smile Train for West and Central Africa.
In his keynote address , the President of the North West Regional Assembly Prof. Fru Angwafo III accentuated the government’s commitment towards enhancing public health, welcoming the partnership with Smile Train to support awareness and safe cleft treatment within the region. “By signing this memorandum of understanding, we have literally opened the doors to assist families in need of cleft care in the Region. The MoU provides platform to create awareness in the North West Region on Cleft care while enhancing identification and referral of patients for free treatment. "This is a truly humanitarian agreement that meets the needs of the community of people with clefts. It restores their integrity, their dignity, and their speech, and procures smiles, cheers, happiness and sustained human development". The Regional Assembly boss added.
Speaking to the Press, the Smile Train Program Director for West and Central Africa Dr Nicole Bouba revealed that the partnership will enhance the availability and quality of cleft treatment in the North West Region of Cameroon. She also intimated that, Smile Train has supported more than 3000 cleft surgeries since 2012 through its network of 10 local partner hospitals in 7 regions across Cameroon. Dr Bouba further called on the population of the North West Region to refer or take their children born with cleft lip or palate to their partner hospital here in the Region - Mbingo Baptist hospital where the patients are treated cost free.
“Cleft is a birth defect in which a child experiences difficulty in breathing, eating and speaking. And children who grow up with untreated clefts are often isolated and bullied, unable to socialize and make friends. Statistics hold that in Cameroon, 700 children are born each year with clefts. Therefore, a new Partnership between Smile Train and the North West Regional Assembly will contribute to providing the necessary support to families who are most in need of cleftcare". Dr. Bouba added.
It should be noted that Smile Train is the largest cleft-focused Organization with active cleft care programs in over 70 countries across the world and more than 245 partners and over 255 partner hospitals across Africa. Through strategic partnerships at the local and international levels, Smile Train dedicates itself towards providing funding towards quality healthcare capacity building and advocacy to increase access to safer surgeries and cleft care in low- and middle-income countries. The organization empowers local medical professionals with training, funding, and resources to provide free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children globally.
Cleft lip and cleft palate are thought to be caused by a combination of genes and epi-genetic factors, such a substances (foods, drinks, drugs, medications) the mother comes in contact with during pregnancy. They most commonly occur as isolated birth defects but can also be associated with inherited genetic conditions
or syndromes. In the region there are many cases of cleft defects, and considering the spectrum of deficiencies secondary to cleft malformations. Smile Train will through the strategic cooperation partnership signed with the North West Regional Assembly, also train multidisciplinary teams of oral, dental, pediatric surgeons, anesthetists, or technicians, orthodontists, nutritionists, community health practitioners, and educationists to care for cleft disease.
By VictoryMarshal Ayafor Basang