The world’s largest cleft organisation, Smile Train, has commenced its national media workshop in Nigeria seeking to increase awareness of cleft lip and palate, a birth difference in which the patient experiences difficulties in breathing, eating and speaking.
Smile Train strives to dispel myths and misinformation surrounding cleft, whose cause is yet unknown but is associated with environmental factors including genetics, alcohol and drug abuse. If left untreated, children who grow up with cleft are stigmatized, bullied and unable to thrive.
The two-day media workshops which will be held in Abuja, Enugu and Lagos aim to enhance the knowledge of cleft among the media.
“This being the second year we are carrying out the media workshops, we recognise the significance of sharing accurate information with the media to enhance behaviour change in the community. We need to continuously sensitise communities that cleft is not a curse and, courtesy of Smile Train, treatment is free across Nigeria through our network of 45 partner hospitals. The media are key stakeholders in creating this awareness,” said PR and communications manager for Africa at Smile Train, Emily Manjeru.
The workshops would bring to the fore pertinent issues affecting safe, timely and quality surgical care among vulnerable groups and the need for more collaboration between medical partners, institutions and government that prioritise patients with a cleft. Key among them include the implementation of the National Surgical Obstetrics Anaesthesia and Nursing Plan (NSOANP) which Smile Train is collaborating with the Ministry of Health to identify surgical needs. NSOANP has recently proposed the introduction of free surgical emergency care into the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA).
“We urge the media to push for publicity of these critical issues because they affect many underprivileged communities. Doing so will bring them to the attention of the policymakers,” said co-chair, NSOANP Implementation Committee and paediatric surgeon at the National Hospital of Abuja, Prof. Emmanuel Ameh.
Also, the participants were re-trained on enhancing their craft by seasoned journalists.
On his part, the chairman, Nigerian Union of Journalists, FCT chapter, Mr. Emmanuel Ogbeche urged the journalists to immerse themselves in the workshops and play their role in advocating for quality healthcare. “We are grateful to Smile Train for the training since it will upskill health reporting in Nigeria including sharing accurate information about cleft. I encourage journalists to also be a part of advocating for quality healthcare by sharing impactful stories,” said Ogbeche.
A statement by Manjeru said Smile Train has active cleft care programmes in 41 countries across Africa with more than 245 partners and over 255 partner hospitals across the continent. In Nigeria, Smile Train programmes started in 2007, having created smiles in over 30,000 beneficiaries to date. Through strategic partnerships at the local and international level, Smile Train dedicates itself to providing funding towards quality healthcare capacity-building and advocacy to increase access to safer surgeries and cleft care in low and middle-income countries.
“Smile Train has made strategic investments in education and training including collaborating with Scottish Charity KidsOR, the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA) and the West African College of Surgeons (WACS) to provide scholarships in various categories. Recently, Smile Train has broken ground in Ghana for Africa’s first Cleft Leadership Centre to build the capacity of cleft professionals to dispense global standards of care at the local level,” it added.