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How we help

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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.

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Sustainable aid

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.

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Comprehensive cleft care

The impact of cleft lip and palate on a child is often underestimated. It goes much beyond the obvious disfigurement, which still is enough to make many cleft children live in isolation. Many babies with cleft lip and palate die in the first year of life from the consequences of neglect or malnutrition, being unable to feed properly. In addition, the cleft often causes far-reaching functional impairments. Comprehensive treatment begins before the operation, and in most cases continues afterwards. However, the surgery is the key first step in changing the lives of these children for the better in the long term.

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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.

Cloud Cloud
Cloud Arrow Arrow Cloud Arrow Arrow Arrow A surgery, performed by skilled local surgeons, only costs 300 euros. Help with a donation and give a cleft child a chance to live a better life.
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Awareness work
Often, the parents do not know anything about the causes and treatment options. The belief that the cleft is a punishment for some wrongdoing or sin is widespread. The education of the population is therefore an important part of our work. Different communication channels are used depending on the country and region. Posters, advertisements or social media channels are used. Project employees go from house to house, visit schools and markets to spread the word about the free treatment we offer.
Speech and functional therapy
Cleft children are impaired in their speech development due to the functional impairment in the mouth, jaw and throat area. The mouth muscles are underdeveloped, children with a cleft palate also have a nasal, often hoarse voice. Speech and functional therapy improves oral motor skills and articulation.
Dentistry and orthodontics
A cleft lip and palate often means that there are massive tooth and jaw misalignments. Correcting this is a long-term process. Later surgical interventions, such as bone transplants, are often necessary. In some of our treatment centers, children are treated with NAM therapy before the operation. In addition almost all children in our project countries have bad teeth due to a lack of dental care and oral hygiene.
ENT care
With a cleft palate, there is insufficient pressure equalization in the middle ear. As a result, the ventilation of the middle ear is restricted, resulting in fluid accumulating. The children suffer from constant feeling of pressure, earache and in many cases from chronic inflammation of the middle ear. The fluid congestion in the middle ear in the long run leads to impaired hearing and thus to problems when learning to speak.
Psychosocial support
Cleft children are different from other children. They look different, speak differently. Being different often leads to exclusion, ridicule and teasing. This can result in far-reaching psychosocial problems for the children. Early and ongoing psychological support helps strengthen the children’s self-confidence. It also helps the affected parents, for whom the birth of a child with cleft can cause a lot of stress and worry.
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Five good reasons to donate
We are dedicated to one single cause: the treatment of children with cleft lip and palate. In our project countries, we provide direct medical aid to families in need. With success measurable by the number of operations.
As far as the structures in our project countries allow, we also finance necessary follow-up treatments beyond the surgeries, such as speech therapy or orthodontics.
Every treatment is documented in our patient database by the doctors on site and verified and checked for quality by us. This way we can be sure that all donations are used properly.
Our goal always is to establish independent medical structures in our project countries. We build long-term projects and stay in close touch with our local partners.
The German Central Institute for Social Issues (DZI) has certified our responsible handling of our donation income with its DZI donation seal since 2012.
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Our patient database

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.

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Patient report
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Institution report
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“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

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The Cleft Group: main foci of our efforts

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.

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Our aid to Africa is currently focused on surgical missions in the East African countries of Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.
Four surgeons are active in Bangladesh. Our cooperation partner is the aid organization Operation Cleft Australia.
We have three aid projects in Bolivia. Locations are Tarija, La Paz and Cochabamba. In La Paz and Cochabamba, patients benefit from a comprehensive range of follow-up therapies in addition to the basic surgery.
Our effort in India, our largest project country, is coordinated by our partner ABMSS. In addition to our own substantial funding, the projects in India are supported by our long-term partners Transforming Faces (Canada) and the Persistent Foundation (India).
Our project in Pakistan was started in 2013. The Al-Mustafa Welfare Society has been our project partner since 2016. The project is led by the experienced surgeon Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Ganatra.
Our Peruvian partner organization Qorito is based in Lima. The team, led by Dr. Alberto Bardales, cares for cleft patients in Lima and various rural regions of Peru.
In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, our aid for cleft children is based on three Vietnamese project partners and a cooperation with the Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation Taiwan.