Indonesian clubs help 2,000 children with cleft lip
Totok Sudarto, past president of the Rotary Club of Surabaya Jembatan Merah, Indonesia, provides postsurgical care to a 14-year-old boy. Photo courtesy of Surabaya Jembatan Merah Rotary club.
Syahrul Gunawan looked in the mirror and touched the reflection of his nose and lips.
The seven-year-old boy, who had received surgery for clefts on both sides of his upper lip, smiled at his mother and exclaimed how handsome he was. Thalca Hamid from the Rotary Club of Surabaya Central, Indonesia, recalls how the boy’s mother told Hamid she had given her son a normal life.
“At times I feel like crying when I hear about these children,” Hamid says, “because friendships from all over the world can change a child’s life.”
Gunawan was among the first children in 2001 who received cleft lip or palate surgeries through the efforts of Hamid and the Surabaya Central club. Since then, 2,000 children have undergone surgery with help from Australian, Dutch, and Indonesian Rotarians, among others.
Two Matching Grants have aided this effort, the most recent of which was cosponsored by District 1610 (The Netherlands). This second, US$45,000 project provided surgeries to 149 impoverished children in 2006-07.
Hamid, an orthodontist, and two other Surabaya Central Rotarians arranged patient transportation, educated parents about postsurgical care, and provided children with books and toys. Rotarians also recruited local villagers to talk to rural families who may not realize the benefits of the surgery.
“The children and their families have unbelievable pressure and stress because many feel that such defects are a curse,” Hamid says. “Previously, few in our community realized how complicated this defect is.”
- Cleft lip and/or palate is the most common facial birth defect, affecting one in 700 babies worldwide and one in 500 in Asia.
- Cleft lip and palate defects can interfere with eating, speaking, and breathing and can cause dental problems, ear infections, and hearing loss.
- A cleft lip can range from a notch in the upper lip to a larger split extending into the nose.
- A cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth ranging from a small malformation to a large separation of the palate.
- Babies can be born with both a cleft lip and palate or just a cleft in one area.
- The ideal age to receive corrective surgery is between 10 and 12 weeks for cleft lip and between 9 and 18 months for cleft palate.
Sources: University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine; American Academy of Otolaryngology
This article appeared in the April issue of Rotary World .