The TY Danjuma Foundation recently concluded a weeklong free surgical mission for people with orofacial cleft deformities at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, in the Federal Capital Territory. The surgical mission provided access to free surgical care for indigent persons with cleft and facial deformities and created massive awareness about craniofacial anomalies.
The most frequent congenital deformity of the head and neck is Orofacial Clefts (OFC). It is a malformation of facial tissues during the development stages of a foetus in the womb. Researchers (Butali et al., 2014) estimate the prevalence rate of orofacial clefts in Nigeria at 0.5 per 1,000 with most cases (54.4%) occurring in males while female patients account for 45.6%. The other major but acquired facial deformity is NOMA – an acute gangrenous oral infection affecting children of four years and under.
Most patients with cleft and facial deformities do not seek timely help for various reasons. An analysis of cases of facial infection patients concluded that poverty and traditional practices are among the leading reasons why patients do not seek timely care in Nigeria (Fomete et al., 2015). Our interactions with patients over the years also point to a lack of funds and societal stigma as important reasons why many delays in seeking timely medical care.
The TY Danjuma Foundation surgical intervention has been bridging the gap for those who cannot afford surgical repairs and medical therapy by partnering with the Cleft and Facial Deformity Foundation to offer free screening, surgeries, counselling and post-surgical services to those in need. In the most recent outreach at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital in Gwagwalada, successful surgeries were conducted on 41 patients for cleft lip repairs, cleft palate repairs, and craniofacial reconstructions. In addition, 50 medical professionals were also trained in the management of orofacial clefts.
Since 2016, the Foundation has funded seven interventions in 11 locations across nine states to provide access to free surgical services for people with orofacial deformities. Over 500 persons have benefited from these interventions.