Cleft > Cleft children in developing countries 

Cleft children in developing countries

For many children in developing countries being born with a cleft lip and palate means social exclusion right from the start and life-long suffering on a physical and emotional level.

The survival of a cleft baby can be at risk straight after birth: the cleft palate prevents a sufficient degree of suction to be created during breastfeeding. The infant can only manage to feed successfully despite its cleft palate if the mother learns a special feeding technique. Eating and drinking also pose considerable problems for older cleft children. As a consequence, the affected children in the developing countries are often undernourished and quickly catch infections.

Because of the insufficient pressure equalisation when swallowing, children with cleft lip and palate have limited aeration of the middle ear which will then lead to a gathering of liquid and subsequently a middle ear infection. Countries with poor healthcare infrastructure often cannot provide an adequate ENT treatment where the surgical implantation of tympanostomy tubes that facilitate the outflow of the liquid would be the solution. Ongoing gatherings of liquid can have dire consequences for the little ones, whose speech development is already impaired by the cleft itself: they are hard of hearing and therefore additionally handicapped when it comes to learning how to talk.

The emotional suffering of these children is almost unimaginable. Due to their appearance they are often separated from society by their family, in the worst cases they are even kept locked away. The birth of a child with a deformity of the face is a cause for despair for many of the parents. They see their cleft child as a “curse” or an ill stroke of fate. As they often do not know that their child can easily be treated with an operation they try to hide it from friends, relatives and neighbours. Thousands of children in the developing countries thus vegetate for years in dark corners or back rooms. The parents themselves are also victims of the congenital deformation and take their actions out of shame, fear of social isolation and a lack of knowledge of the possibilities of successful treatment. They wish for nothing more than a normal life for their child. 

Cleft children in developing countries
Cleft children in developing countries

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