By Doosuur Iwambe, Abuja
Medical professionals from different zones in Nigeria have called upon the Federal Government to invest more in innovative ways of strengthening surgical systems in the country.
Speaking during the conclusion of the National Cleft Stakeholders Forum in Nigeria, Smile Train Vice-President and Regional Director for Africa Mrs. Nkeiruka Obi expressed gratitude to the various zones for bringing to the fore the needs of patients with cleft, leveraging the cleft e-registry to help identify the cases across the country.
She called for more collaboration in ensuring prioritization of patients with cleft in receiving safe, timely and quality treatment.
“Neglected surgical conditions continue to be a burden among many of our underserved communities including access to safe and affordable care.
“In efforts to change the narrative on getting data on patients with cleft, the revolutionary cleft e-registry platform has enabled researchers and policy makers with empirical evidence on cleft in Nigeria.
“As Smile Train endeavors to provide sustainable cleft care, we call for investment and collaboration from the community leaders to the government in ensuring that we provide safe, quality and timely treatment, with priority on children’s surgery,” noted Mrs. Obi Co-Chair of the National Surgical Anaesthesia and Nursing Plan (NSOANP).
Also, Prof. Emmanuel Ameh who shared a report on the implementation of Nigeria’s NSOAP noted that the Plan represented a stepwise and organized platform for the strengthening and scaling-up of surgical care in low- and middle-income countries, but whose successful implementation had been hampered by funding.
“Funding remains the most important threat to implementation. We need to constantly innovate relevant, sustainable funding mechanisms both locally and working with development partners like Smile Train to successfully implement the plan and make it more sustainable.
“If we are to achieve Universal Health Coverage, we need to prioritize children’s surgery and nursing within Nigeria’s plan as we strengthen our health systems and achieve some of the Sustainable Development Goals” Prof. Ameh said.
During the event, journalists who have supported in awareness creation of cleft in the country were feted at the inaugural Cleft Awareness Media Awards.
The competition which had run from June 2021 till November 31st saw Freelancer Arinze Gideon clinch 1st position, walking away with $1000 in prize money, followed closely by Sunday Ehigiator and Andrea Onuoha at second and third position receiving $600 and $400 respectively.
Cleft is a congenital birth defect which affects the child’s ability to breath, eat, speak and ultimately thrive. Because of the unfounded myths and misconceptions, children are isolated, stigmatized and abandoned or even killed.
Smile Train’s scalable and sustainable model of investing in training and resources to treat cleft has a proven positive impact on the quality of care provided at local communities.
The Memorandum of Understanding which was signed in December 2020 followed progressive engagement in which Smile Train participated at the NSOANP Stakeholders Implementation meeting in Abuja in February 2020.
To address the need of having quality pediatric surgical care in the country, Smile Train in partnership with Scottish Charity Kids Operating Room launched colourful and well-equipped pediatric theatres at Armed Forces Specialist Hospital, Kano, Lagos University Teaching Hospital and National Orthopaedic Hospital Enugu.
Smile Train has been actively supporting programs in Africa since 2002.
In that time, the organization has developed local partnerships with more than 245 partner hospitals and 255+ medical partners in 40 countries throughout Africa to provide free cleft treatment.
To date, Smile Train’s local medical partners have provided more than 120,000 life-changing cleft surgeries across Africa, with 27,000 cleft patients in Nigeria since 2007.