Salman and Ayan from Ethiopia

During our first aid mission at the Karamara General Hospital in Jijiga (Ethiopia) in November 2022, more than 200 families came seeking help for their children born with cleft lip and palate. An overwhelming number, and too many to help them all in a single week of surgery. We promised to come back.

No sooner said than done: in June 2023, we returned to treat the many children whose parents we didn’t have the time to help during the first mission. And even after this second aid mission, the waiting list is still long. Many families are still eagerly waiting for us to come back and help their children too.

A family like many

Families like Salman and Ayan’s. Salman was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. His little sister Ayan has a unilateral cleft lip and palate – a big shock for their parents. Both of their children now need qualified treatment in order to be able to live a life without health restrictions. A heavy burden for the young family, not just emotionally: everyday things like feeding can be much more difficult than that in children without cleft.

Only a surgery enables those affected to live a “normal” life: Salman’s dad was born with a cleft lip and palate – today it is no longer visible. Now he hopes for such a successful operation for his son and daughter as well.

Salman keeps crying before his surgery. Our team comes up with an idea! We try to distract him with soap bubbles. It works! Salman forgets his fear and tries to catch the floating bubbles.

A carefree moment.

Then the time has finally come: Cleft surgeon and DCKH Board of Trustees member Dr. Ulrike Lamlé, who regularly lends us her hands-on support us on missions like this, operates Salman. Waiting to see their child again is difficult for the parents. The parents’ apprehensive faces relax when they can finally go see Salman in the recovery room. The closure of his bilateral cleft lip has been successful.

Together for cleft children: the Pakistani team led by chief surgeon Professor Ashraf Ganatra with anaesthetists Dr Alamgir and Dr Asif; Dr Ulrike Lamlé, Dr Patricia Lamlé and Andrea Weiberg for DCKH; and the Karamara Hospital team led by clinical director Dr Mohammed and organizer Dr Muse.

The parents hope that our doctors will also be able to help their little daughter. Ayan is even smaller than her brother Salman and it needs to be determined whether she is fit enough to safely receive surgery. And the news are good! Ayan’s lab results are good and Dr. Ulrike Lamlé can give her the surgery she needs.

A happy ending – until next time?

After Ayan has recovered, she returns to her mom’s arms. The parents are overjoyed that we were able to help their two children. What a happy ending!

We assure the family that we will be back. During our next visit to Jijiga, Salman and Ayan’s cleft palates will be closed. And more families are already contacting the team at Karamara General Hospital.

Our work in Ethiopia and our other project countries is only possible thanks to our many donors and supporters. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts.

More impressions from our work in Ethiopia: