Abdulahi from Jijiga, Ethiopia

Abdulahi is the first child of his mother Nasra. After his birth, she doesn’t get the chance to rejoice wholeheartedly about her first child: a cleft lip and palate mark Abdulahi’s face. Worries about how to get him the help he now needs overshadow the young family’s everyday life. What should they do?

For many years, no help is to be found: Abdulahi is already six years old when he shows up to our very first relief mission in Jijiga, Ethiopia with his mother and grandmother. Six years with his untreated cleft. Mama Nasra cries as she recounts how her child suffers from the ridicule of other children and exclusion.

We of course want to help the little family! Abdulahi immediately conquers the hearts of our mission team. Our help in Ethiopia is still in its infancy. We do not yet have a local doctor with the necessary professional training to provide the care. Instead, our dear friends, the highly experienced surgeons from our project in Bangladesh, have volunteered to come on this mission. In a first step, they finally close the boy’s cleft palate. But he still needs a second surgery for his lip! We promise the family that we will come back soon and make Abdulahi’s lip surgery possible as well!

Abdulahi: Vulnerability and happiness

And we keep our word. Reunion with Abdulahi on our second mission to Jijiga: “Yoooo Dude” is written in big letters on his T-shirt. He greets us with a beaming smile to match his shirt’s enthusiasm! The anticipation for the operation is great. Nevertheless, Abdulahi does not leave his grandmother’s side. With tears of joy in her eyes, Abdulahi’s grandmother tells us that her grandson has finally been able eat and drink without any problems since the first surgery. Before the palate surgery, the mouth and nose of cleft palate patients are not properly separated; food can leak out of the nose – instead of pleasure and joy, eating with others means frustration and embarrassment.

This time it is our partners from Pakistan who have volunteered to come to Jijiga to help the Ethiopian children. Finally Abdulahi’s lip is closed in a second operation, ridding him of his external disfigurement.

After his surgery, he does not leave the side of his grandma, who is accompanying him this time. Happy and grateful, the grandmother hugs her grandson. Her greatest wish, that Abdulahi can get the chance to live a healthy life without cleft, is fulfilled. We are very happy for the little family! Our heartfelt gratitude goes to our great hosts from Karamara Hospital in Jijiga, the Bangladeshi volunteers of the first mission – a team of pediatric anesthesia and cleft specialists around our long-time partner Dr. Zaman -, and the equally top-class Pakistani team around Professor Ganatra, who worked on the second mission. Both missions were accompanied by our German volunteer Dr. Ulrike Lamlé, who has been lending her invaluable support to our projects for many years now.

Last but not least we owe our deepest gratitude to our many donors. It is you who make our work, which helps children like Abdulahi and many many others, possible in the first place. Thank you for your support, your generous hearts, your trust in us!