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Our patient Dharati

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In India, we provide over 3,000 surgeries to children with cleft lip and palate every year. Our goal is to provide the children with the most comprehensive care possible. With the additional therapies that are often necessary, such as orthodontics or speech therapy, treatment can take years. We track all treatments through our patient database so that we can prove the proper use of our donors’ funds. But the photos uploaded to document the treatments also let us watch the children grow up. Dharati is a patient from the early days of our work, whom we were privileged to follow for a long time and who has remained in our memories and hearts.

Dharati’s family lived in the poorest conditions. As landless farmers they could not afford the treatment of their daughter. Dharati had to live with the health and social consequences of her untreated cleft for years. It was only when Dharati was already five years old that her parents noticed a poster at a milk distribution point: Free surgery for children with cleft lip! What a lucky coincidence!

Shortly after, Dharati received her first surgery at our cleft center in Ahmedabad. The surgery went very well, and her lip and palate healed quickly. However, when the attending surgeon visited Dharati at home some time later for a check-up, he noticed that the girl always kept her lips pressed together when smiling…


Little Dharati before the operation. In addition to the lip, the cleft visibly affects the bone of the upper jaw. Cleft lip surgery can be performed as early as after the third month of life. The child can then drink normally and develops much better as a result. Before the operation of the cleft, the parents have to feed the children with a special technique, which many cannot do without help. As a result, the child is malnourished and weakened, grows more slowly, and is susceptible to disease. Without treatment, many cleft children tragically and unnecessarily die as babies or toddlers. We work every day to educate all families, even in remote areas, about cleft lip and palate and its management and treatment options so that children can quickly lead normal lives.

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How did Dharati’s story continue?

After the first operation, much has already changed for the better for Dharati: She is no longer visibly different and is happy playing outside with her friends. But she is still a little ashamed of the hole in her jaw and the large gap between her teeth.

However, our surgeon is able to reassure her: she is now old enough for what is known as bone grafting. This is a follow-up treatment that builds on the basic lip and palate closure operations. In a bone grafting procedure, the patient’s own bone material is used to fill the gap in the jaw. After that, missing teeth can be inserted. The result is a further improvement in the treatment outcome for patients.

Today, Dharati likes to show her big smile to everyone around her. She no longer has the feeling that she wants to hide. Many children with cleft lip like Dharati are still waiting for their operation. We are fighting to help each single one of them.

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Five good reasons to donate for cleft children
We dedicate ourselves to a single cause: Treating children with cleft lip and palate. In our project countries, we offer direct medical help for the needy patients and their families. Measurable in the number of surgeries offered.
Whereever the situation in our project countries allows, we fund additional necessary followup therapies beyond the surgeries, such as speech therapy or orthodontics.
Every treatment is documented by our doctors in the project countries in our patient database and verified by us. This way we know that the donations entrusted to us are used properly.
Our goal always is to build sustainable, independently functioning structures in our project countries. To achieve this, we build up long-term partnerships and keep in close touch with our local partners.
The German Central Institute for Social Matters (DZI) certifies that we use the donations entrusted to us responsibly and properly manner. We have held this certificate continuously since 2012.
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From our projects
The story of Maui, cleft child from Colombia
Our new project to help children with cleft lip and palate in Colombia begins with a very unusual case. Maui was born with a cleft lip and palate. His parents belong to an indigenous people and do not know how to get him the help he needs. By a happy coincidence, Julia, a Swiss woman living in Colombia, is a neighbor of the family and offers to help. In search of treatment options, she comes across Deutsche Cleft Kinderhilfe.
Video: Impressions from Bolivia
The parents of our cleft children are always full of gratitude. When their child is born with cleft, they often do not know what to make of the malformation, much less that it can be treated. And even if they do - most of our little patients come from the poorest of backgrounds. Their parents could never afford the operation. It is an unimaginable happiness for them to learn that their children can receive qualified treatment, and free of charge even. This wonderful, touching film from our Bolivian aid project captures these special moments of happiness.
Video: Impressions from Pakistan
This film, made for our Pakistani partner organization, the Al-Mustafa Welfare Societey, by the father of one of our patients, shows scenes from our work in Karachi. From here, our senior surgeon Prof. Ashraf Ganatra treats cleft children from poorest families. He operates the children from Karachi at the Al Mustafa Medical Center. In order to reach the many needy families living outside the city, he also regularly heads out to local provincial hospitals to treat cleft patients there.