Ekwulobia - The wife of the Anambra Governor, Ebelechukwu Obiano, has urged parents of children with deformities to take advantage of her free surgery programme.
Obiano made the call Thursday during her visit to Ekwulobia, headquarters of Aguata Local Government Area of the state.
She urged all women whose children have cleft lip and cleft palate deformities to take advantage of the free surgery being provided under her pet project.
According to her, Caring Family Enhancement initiative (CAFÉ), her pet project, in collaboration with Smile Train Nigeria (STN) is sponsoring the free surgery at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, NAUTH, Nnewi.
Remi Adeseun, Country Director of Smile Train Nigeria, said that no fewer than 5,000 children were born with cleft lips and palates in Nigeria annually.
He explained that the only way to save affected children was through early corrective surgeries.
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Adeseun said children, who were affected by the deformities, grow up with a stigma that often results in lack of education, poor speech and opportunistic diseases.
He said that if all adults with deformities were put together, no fewer than 180,000 Nigerians would be living with the deformity, which could have been corrected with early surgery.
Adeseun further said that cleft lip and palate are birth defects that happened while a baby was developing in the womb.
"Between the sixth to 10th week of pregnancy, the bones and tissues of a baby’s upper jaw, nose, and mouth normally come together (fuse) to form the roof of the mouth and the upper lip.
"If the tissue in the developing mouth and the palate do not fuse together, a baby could be born with a condition called cleft lip or cleft palate or both.
"The causes included genetic factors due to the absence of a gene or one replaced by another," Adeseun said.
He attributed the environmental causes to certain drugs such as Thalidomide, anti-convulsant drugs, lack of vitamin B12, and folic acid.
Country Director noted that women should be careful during the first trimester of pregnancy.
According to him, children with cleft lip and palate also have other congenital abnormality such as club feet and deformed ears due to the opening between the mouth and the nose.