First ever Pan African congress on cleft lip, palate set for February
It is estimated that there are more than 360,000 people suffering from clefts in Africa today—the majority of which are children. In response to this overwhelming problem, Loma Linda University has partnered with Adventist Health International and the Smile Train to sponsor the first ever Pan African Congress on Cleft Lip and Palate (PACCLIP). The congress, scheduled for February 13 through 15, 2006, in Ibadan, Nigeria, will give 90 surgeons and physicians the opportunity to participate in lectures, interactive seminars, and surgical videotaped demonstrations in order to establish a sustainable cleft care program in Africa.
This training will empower local doctors to perform surgery on the indigent children so that every child, regardless of income, will have the chance to live a normal and happy life.
The congress is heavily supported by the division of plastic surgery at Loma Linda University. Linda L. D’Antonio, PhD, professor, School of Medicine, and director of international outreach, plastic and reconstructive surgery, Loma Linda University; Mark Martin, MD, assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery, School of Medicine; and Mark Rowe, MD, associate professor of otolaryngology, School of Medicine, will serve as faculty at the congress.
Dr. D’Antonio is also a member of the Smile Train medical advisory board.
According to Smile Train, most children in Africa affected by cleft lip are so desperately poor that they will never be able to afford to have their clefts repaired.
“The Smile Train is working hard to expand our programs throughout Africa. Overall, we plan to train hundreds of surgeons and operate on thousands of children in the coming year,” says president and co-founder Brian Mullaney.
The congress is the first meeting of its kind on the continent of Africa and seeks to identify existing cleft care providers and programs within Africa; to make available a platform for those already providing cleft care in Africa to network and share their experience; to raise public awareness about cleft lip and palate and to inform the public that cleft lip and palate can be surgically corrected; and to provide education and training for surgeons regarding the care of children with cleft lip and palate
“With the Smile Train’s support, this once hidden deformity of cleft lip and palate can be corrected,” says Richard H. Hart, MD, DrPH, chancellor of Loma Linda University and president of Adventist Health International. “What a blessing to bring to families and children who carry this burden.”
Currently, Nigeria has the largest population on the continent with more than 137,250,000 people. In addition, it is ranked No. 9 in the world for cleft births, with more than 51,000 people suffering from cleft in Nigeria alone.
According to Smile Train, it costs as little as $250 for each cleft operation and takes as little as 45 minutes. Each year, in more than 55 countries, the Smile Train provides free cleft surgery to more than 30,000 children who would otherwise never receive it.
For more information on PACCLIP please visit <www.smiletraincomestoafrica.org>.
For information about the Smile Train, go to <www.smiletrain.org>.
By Dustin R. Jones, MA