Cleft Lip & Palate Project

~ “A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.” – Phyllis Diller

On Saturday 28 September the Rotary Club of Grand Bay and its partner Cleft Care Mauritius were at Le Grand Bleu with Dr. Pritham Shetty (MDS-MOMRCS (Glasgow)), an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, specialised in the discipline of cleft lip palate cranio-facial anomalies and a consultant in cleft palate Centre at the Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Hospital Bangalore. Dr. Shetty was in Mauritius to examine patients prior to surgery in Bangalore. He found time to talk to us about Cleft Palate and explained that a solid team makes sure that the child gets the best care possible. Not only is the team composed of pediatricians, cleft surgeons and anesthetists but also of social workers, ENT personnel, orthodontists and speech therapists.

The Rotary Club of Grand Bay’s Cleft Palate Project aims at improving lives through two of Rotary’s main areas of focus: fighting disease and, saving women and children. This project is carried out in collaboration with Cleft Care Mauritius. The objective of the Rotary Club of Grand Bay is to bring a smile to the children with Cleft and to help relieve the financial burden on the parents. The Club wants to raise awareness of cleft lip and palate so that the general public understands what Cleft is all about and that it should treat Cleft patients just like any other individual. To date, the Club has financed two surgeries of children.

According to the NGO Cleft Care Mauritius, founded in 2017, 1 infant is born with Cleft every 3 months in Mauritius. This figure is based on data gathered between 2017 and 2019. The Rotary Club of Grand Bay hopes to finance surgical costs of at least 5 patients per annum over a period of 3 years. The focus will be on patients whose parents come from low income families.

What is a Cleft palate: It is an opening or split in the roof of the mouth that occurs when the tissue does not fuse together during development in the womb. A Cleft palate often includes a split (Cleft) in the upper lip (Cleft lip) but can occur without affecting the lip.

Those born with a Cleft palate have difficulty feeding, ear infections and hearing loss, dental problems, speech difficulties, etc. It is heart wrenching for the mother who cannot breastfeed her baby as breastfeeding becomes very difficult for a baby with a Cleft palate and he/she may need a special nipple and bottle to receive pumped breast milk or formula.

Cleft lip and cleft palate are thought to be caused by a combination of genes and other factors, such as infection, folic acid deficiency, habits (smoking, alcohol, drugs) … It can be detected with ultrasound after 4 months of pregnancy. Once the fetus is diagnosed with cleft lip, the mothers receive psychological counselling.

The good news is that this birth defect can be surgically repaired in the hospital using general anesthesia. Most children need 3 surgeries each from age 0 months to 9 years old. Cleft lip surgery is done when the child weighs 5.5 kg (4 months), palate surgery is when the child weighs 7.5 kg (10-12 months) and alveolar bone graft is when the child is 9 years old.

Our partner not only gives advice and non-medical support to the parents when the child is born with Cleft (feeding, handling, precautions) but also helps with all administrative work for those who want to do the operation abroad (India).

With our combined effort, Cleft patients will no longer be regarded as second class citizens.
A smile is a human right!

30 Sept 2019