Still reeling under the backlog of nearly 5,000 cases of cleft lip or cleft palate or both in Gujarat, the state Health Department is aiming to cure all existing cases.
As per the state government records, the entirely correctable deformity affects nearly 3,500 births (out of total 13 lakh births every year) in Gujarat.
More than a dozen different agencies from government hospitals, non-government organisations to private trusts are roping in teams of plastic surgeons, counsellors, paediatricians and speech correction experts in a state-wide campaign.
The campaign will involve counselling of parents, surgical removal of the deformity and post-surgery sessions. A state-wide survey of all existing cases of cleft lip and palate in the age bracket of 0-18 years would be conducted.
The failure to identify such cases and preform surgery has led to a backlog. A recent example of this was a case at the civil hospital where an expecting mother from a tribal area got operated. After a few months, her child was born with the deformity but she brought her child at an early stage,” said head of department of plastic surgery Dr M F Shaikh at B J Medical College in Ahmedabad.
“Most of these 3,500 cases in a year, or one in 800 births, are not reported by the parents fearing social stigma and also due to lack of awareness. The department has decided to address this issue on priority as it not only affects the physical parameters of a child but also results in speech deformities, affects nutritional aspects of a child, results in school drop outs or no enrolment at all,” said health commissioner J P Gupta.
The survey will be followed by counselling of the parents. Efforts would be made to make them aware of this deformity and address it early. The identified cases would then be taken to medical centres and health camps for surgery.
The department will bear all the expenses of the surgery and conveyance and transportation charges will be re-imbursed to the patients.
“It was realised that there is a need to spread awareness regarding this completely correctable deformity among children at a right age which is 3-6 months for cleft lip and one to one and a half years for cleft palate.
This has been inducted as a part of the campaign and would be more aggressive in the tribal and rural areas where more than 30 per cent cases are not reported at all or not at a correct age,” said Dr Nischal Nayak, the programme manager for the NGO Smile Train that has been roped in for the campaign.