Many Bolivians live in the mountain villages of the Bolivian Andes at an altitude of up to 4,000 meters. Life in the mountains is hard. Many families are very poor. The high altitude and often poor diet available during pregnancy make a cleft lip and palate more likely. The difficulty of travel also makes it more difficult for these patients and their families to access medical care.
Our surgeons in Bolivia help some 50 children with cleft lip or palate per month. Our work focuses on three permanent locations – in Tarija, the southernmost city in Bolivia, La Paz in the Andean plateau, and Cochabamba, the fourth largest city in Bolivia situated in the central highlands. The teams from Tarija and La Paz regularly travel to provincial hospitals in the surrounding areas and in the Andes to treat patients.
In addition to the operations, we also offer follow-up therapies in Bolivia, such as speech therapy, orthodontics and psychological care. This helps the children live even better lives, with even fewer effects of the cleft remaining.
“I have been operating children with cleft lip and palate here in Bolivia for four years. I received great training from my Peruvian colleague Dr. Alberto Bardales. From him I also learned how important it is to continue treating the children after the operation. Thanks to Alberto Bardales I have succeeded in pursuing this therapeutic approach in Bolivia as well. I am on the right track with my team. I would like to thank Alberto Bardales and Deutsche Cleft Kinderhilfe for their support.
Adolfo Mamani, chief surgeon of our Bolivia project in La Paz
We started our project to help cleft children in Bolivia in 2010, with plastic surgeon Dr. Mario Villalba starting to perform cleft surgeries. Dr. Villalba has many years of experience in cleft surgery. At the Esculapio Clinic for Plastic Surgery in Tarija, he treats needy cleft lip and palate patients who come from across Bolivia to access our free help. In addition, he regularly performs missions outside of Tarija. For example in Trinidad in the Amazon lowlands, or in Cochabamba, a city in the central highlands.
In 2015 we expanded our team with Dr. Adolfo Mamani. The pediatric surgeon was trained in cleft surgery by our Peruvian partner Dr. Alberto Bardales. With his organization Jiwaqui Bolivia, Dr. Mamani treats Bolivian cleft lip and palate patients in La Paz and also operates in Oruro, Potosí, Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando. As an advocate of comprehensive cleft therapy, he has built up an interdisciplinary team in recent years and offers speech therapy, orthodontics and psychological care to his patients. He plans to expand this treatment concept by setting up a cleft center in La Paz.
In May 2020, Ayninakuna, an experienced new partner, was added to our network. The distinguished surgeon Dr. Roberto Edmundo Rosa Ressini built a cleft treatment center at the Aranjuez Clinic in Cochabamba under the umbrella of the “Fundacion para la Salud Ayninakuna” foundation. After his death in 2018, a surgeon he trained, Dr. Eligio Rolanda Acienega Llano, took over as the head of the project. He and his team operate 12 cleft children per month. In addition to offering all relevant surgical interventions, the center also provides comprehensive, long-term care for children and their parents. As a preoperative measure, NAM (Nasoalvolear Molding) is used in Cochabamba. The agreement with Ayninakuna starts with funding for 100 operations, with more to come.
Whether they live in the lowlands or highlands of Bolivia: children with cleft lip and palate in Bolivia often have no access to treatment. With your donation you help us continue our work for the cleft children of Bolivia.
20 percent of the Bolivian population belong to indigenous peoples. This means that Bolivia has one of the highest Indian proportions in South America. Most of them are Quechua and Aymara. They usually don’t speak Spanish. But since many schools only teach in Spanish, it is difficult for the children of these families to follow the lessons. Therefore, many do not go to school.
In rural areas of Bolivia, over half of adults cannot read and write. The latest educational programs require that teachers have to be proficient in either Aymara or Quechua and can teach another foreign language (mostly English).