In many countries, cleft children and their families have no access to treatment and are instead are shunned by their neighbors and peers for their entire lives. Because of their cleft, the children are stigmatized as disabled, ridiculed and marginalized. Very few are able to attend school. In addition, many of the children have serious health problems as a result of their cleft.
We want cleft children from all countries and backgrounds to have access to safe, high-quality, and comprehensive treatment, giving them a chance to live a better life. To achieve this goal, we invest in the long-term development of our projects – as a foundation for lasting, functioning local treatment structures and thus sustainable aid for the cleft patients in our project countries.
Following the motto “Helping people help themselves”, we work to build independent structures in our project countries. The medical effort on site is organized independently by our local partners. In our 12 project countries, more than 250 local doctors, therapists and project coordinators provide on-site medical care and ongoing support for patients.
In major cities we have fixed project locations in partner clinics. In order to care for the many patients who live in remote rural regions, regular missions are carried out to provincial hospitals. Each project has a senior surgeon with a team of anesthesiologists and nurses at their side. Trained staff travel the country holding awareness campaigns. The main goal here is to educate the affected parents about the causes of the malformation and the availability of free treatment. As the aid structures in a country expand, the local core teams may also grow to include speech therapists, orthodontists, dentists and psychologists.
Some of our aid projects are supported on a voluntary basis by German doctors with their specialist expertise. They usually visit the project country they are overseeing once a year. In addition to project evaluation, these visits are also used to further educate local partners. We also promote interdisciplinary exchange between our international project partners, to share the latest knowledge. All of these measures have one goal: to ensure high quality treatment worldwide.
The most important part of the treatment is the surgery. Performed by a skilled, qualified surgeon like our partners are, it makes children with a cleft lip look “normal”. If there is also a cleft palate, at least one further operation is required to close it. An untreated cleft palate has serious consequences: the children cannot eat and drink properly and speak with difficulty.
Every treatment is documented in our patient database by the doctors on site with personal data on the child, diagnosis, therapy, before and after pictures as well as background information on the family and the doctor treating them.
The patient database is an important tool for us. We only reimburse the treatment costs to our project partners when the documentation has been submitted and checked by us. This takes place about two to six weeks after the procedure.
We also use the database to give our donors a glimpse into our work. If you assume a surgical sponsorship for a child, you will learn which child has been operated on thanks to your support. This way you can experience up close what your donation achieves.
“I am always touched by how we are able to change a child’s life for the better. We want to mobilize people to get involved with us and to join our aid network. Together we can achieve great things.”
Prof. Dr. med. Frank Feyerherd,
Anesthesiologist and DCKH volunteer board member
We invest continuously in the expansion of our projects, with an eye on long-term development. Our focus countries are Africa, Bangladesh, Bolivia, India, Pakistan, Peru and Vietnam. They are grouped together under the roof of the Cleft Group. Aid for cleft children is organized independently in each country; operations, information events and other project country-specific content are communicated via their own country websites.