A large part of the Bolivian population lives in the mountain villages of the Bolivian Andes at an altitude of up to 4,000 meters. Life in the mountains is tough. Many families live in great poverty. The high altitude and a frequently one-sided diet of mothers during pregnancy favor the development of a cleft lip and palate. The geographical conditions also make access to medical care more difficult.
Our Bolivian surgeons treat around 30 cleft patients per month. Our work focuses on two permanent locations – in Tarija, the southernmost city in Bolivia, and La Paz in the Andean plateau. In addition, both teams regularly organize operations in provincial hospitals in the surrounding areas and in the Andes. In addition to the operations, we also offer other follow-up therapies in Bolivia, such as speech therapy, orthodontics and psychological care.
“I have been operating children with cleft lip and palate 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
When we started our project in Bolivia in 2010, we focused on plastic surgeon Dr. Mario Villalba performing surgery as a key treatment measure. Dr. Villalba has many years of experience in cleft surgery. At the Esculapio Clinic for Plastic Surgery in Tarija, he treats needy patients coming from different regions of Bolivia to access our help free of charge. 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.
At the end of 2015 we expanded our team to include Dr. Adolfo Mamani. The pediatric surgeon was trained in cleft surgery by our Peruvian partner Dr. Alberto Bardales. Under the umbrella of his organization Jiwaqui Bolivia, Dr. Mamani treats cleft patients in La Paz and organizes operations 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. It is planned 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, the 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 initial agreement with Ayninakuna provides for funding for 100 operations, and an increase in the funding volume is planned.
Whether lowland or highland: children in Bolivia often have no access to treatment. With your donation you help us continue our work for cleft children in Bolivia.
20 percent of the Bolivian population belong to indigenous peoples. Bolivia thus 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. More recent educational programs provide that teachers have to be proficient in either Aymara or Quechua and can teach another foreign language (mostly English).