Alongside India, Cameroon was the starting point for our international work to help cleft children. We were active in Cameroon from 2003 to 2014. We promoted a cleft project under the direction of a local surgeon and organized operations, which were supported on a voluntary basis by our current board member, Prof. Feyerherd. In the eleven years of our presence, we were able to treat almost 1,300 cleft patients in Cameroon.
In 2009 we started our work to help cleft children in East Africa with a project in Uganda. Until 2016 we carried out surgery mission to the Mbarara University Hospital. The Ugandan cleft team is now working independently, our support in the area of surgery has been completed. Our volunteer project managers from the first day: the two experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeons Dr. Oliver Blume and Gunther Au-Balbach. After seven years of close cooperation, an Ugandan team now accompanies Oliver Blume and Gunther Au-Balbach on their annual missions in East Africa. Oliver Blume gives lectures at the Mbarara University Hospital tot his day.
Three further projects were added in East Africa over the years: Rwanda in 2011, Burundi in 2015. Tanzania has been the third location since 2016. In 2019, our teams operated in Rwanda and Tanzania and were able to treat a total of 34 patients.
In Burundi, our last mission for now took place in February 2018. This ended with an attack on our German medical team, which luckily did not harm anyone. Nevertheless, we stopped our work in Burundi until further notice. Our local doctors are also currently unable to work in Burundi. We hope to resume our work to help cleft children in Burundi soon. The primary goal will then be to train a Burundian doctor in cleft surgery.
Our two German project managers’ annual missions serve not only to provide direct medical help for cleft patients, but also to train local doctors. The specialist training of the Rwandan surgeon Dr. Laurent Siborurema was successfully completed in 2013. In addition to the training received from Oliver Blume and Gunther Au-Balbach, Dr. Laurent also took part in a four-week training course in two of our Indian cleft centers.
After years of development work, this investment in East Africa is now bearing fruit: Under the leadership of Dr. Laurent a permanent local team has formed that now independently operates cleft patients in Tanzania.