Witchcraft beliefs disturbing cleft surgical care

Operation Smile Malawi has lamented the delay in getting necessary surgical care by children with cleft lips or palates due to witchcraft beliefs.

Programme Manager for Operation Smile Malawi, Ibrahim Nthalika, told the local media that the organisation assists over 350 children annually although witchcraft beliefs disturb progress of the surgical care.

Kid with cleft lip

“Sometimes children born with such conditions may be killed believing that they are witches or wizards. When they are allowed to grow, they are prohibited from associating with fellow children and may not even be sent to school.

“We had case of a child who was taken for Under 5 Clinic just thrice. The mother stopped taking the child to Under 5 Clinics because fellow mothers were crowding her to make fun of the child. This means the child did not receive all the vaccines or immunisations an under five child is supposed to receive,” explained Nthalika.

These revelations were made on Monday when Operation Smile Malawi received K3 million from National Bank of Malawi plc to be used in reaching out to children with cleft conditions across the country.

Capital City Branch Manager of National Bank of Malawi plc, George Nyirenda, said the bank has an obligation to reach out to needy citizens.

“We realise the need to assist Malawians who are struggling to lead a normal life in one way or another. When such children are assisted, they will lead a normal life, become meaningful citizens and contribute to the development of the country,” Nyirenda said.

The approximate incidence of cleft lip is 1 in every 700 live births, among them 25% are bilateral and 85% are associated with cleft palate. Isolated cleft palate occurs in 1 in 2000 live births. Cleft lip is more common among males while cleft palate is more common among females.

Early diagnosis of cleft lip and cleft palate before birth brings advantages such as time for parent education on the management of the baby to be born and it allows psychological preparation of the parents to help them to have realist expectations.

Operation Smile Malawi has given cleft surgical care to over 2,000 children since it started its operations in 2012.

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