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Many Pinkys smile in Pune too,thanks to Smile Train

Pinky had a big smile when she,as the protagonist of the documentary Smile Pinki,played a critical role in winning an Oscar for her American director.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
February 26, 2009 2:21:29 am

Pinky had a big smile when she,as the protagonist of the documentary Smile Pinki,played a critical role in winning an Oscar for her American director. One lakh Pinkys are born every year in India with clefts – a gap in the upper lip and/or palate – a condition that if untreated can scar them physically and psychologically for life.

Pune is one place where the same American NGO,Smile Train,the moving force behind treating Pinky,plays a major role in facilitating plastic surgeries for children with cleft lip and palates. Smile Train has till date facilitated over 4,000 surgeries in Pune,providing $350 per child.

“We are the world’s largest cleft lip and palate charity,” says the Pune project director Dr Shrirang Pandit. “Our overriding goal is to make safe and quality treatment of cleft lip and palate accessible to the millions who cannot afford it.”

Pandit feels there is the need for a national programme for such children. Though a cleft can be completely corrected with a simple surgical procedure that could take as little as 45 minutes and cost as little as Rs 8,000,this is one area that has not got much attention from the government. Many plastic surgeons in the city say it is high time the government came forward with a specific plan of action instead of leaving these children to funds from foreign agencies.

Col (Dr) Tejinder Bhatti,member of the governing council of the Association of Plastic Surgeons of India,says,“We perform at least 18-20 surgeries for rectifying clefts at Command Hospital every month. This not only transforms their acceptability among playmates but gives them a second chance at life,” says Bhatti,stressing the need for a national programme to address this problem. Though the condition is treatable,less than half get the treatment they desperately need,only because they are too poor. Without corrective surgery,these children are condemned to a lifetime of isolation and suffering,says Dr Parag Sahasrabuddhe,head of plastic surgery at Sassoon Hospital,where two surgeries are performed every week.

Dr Parag Sancheti,chairman of the Sancheti Institute of Orthopaedics,where some 200 cleft lip surgeries are held every year,agrees that it is high time that the government came out with a national programme to tackle this handicap. “Many are even abandoned or killed at birth. Those who are ‘suffered’ by their families are taunted and tormented for their disfigurement and cannot attend school; those who do cannot hold a regular job or get married,” says Sancheti.

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