Shahed Ali is a local shopkeeper in Sylhet with a five-month-old son named Nahid Ahmed. Shahed’s entire family was in utter shock when his son Nahid was born with cleft deformities.
“We are extremely poor people and were worried about my son as we do not have the ability to provide him with proper treatment.”
According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, there are around 200,000 cleft deformity patients, such as Nahid, in Bangladesh.
New York based non-profit organisation Smile Train has committed to providing free treatment to underprivileged children and adults living in remote areas of the country.
The organisation is working with local hospitals to provide treatment and conduct necessary surgeries.
Five-month-old Nahid went through cleft surgery, conducted by Smile Train in collaboration with Ibn Sina Hospital in Sylhet.
Nahid’s father Shahed said: “We recently came to know about the free treatment through a local physician. I took a chance and admitted my son to the hospital. He had the surgery on Friday. Now I have found hope for my son.”
Besides the one on Nahid, Smile Train carried out 16 other surgeries on Friday at the hospital.
Smile Train Country Manager Mostafizur Rahman said they work with 30 partner hospitals in Bangladesh. They have conducted a total of 50,000 surgeries in the country since 2011. Around 6,000 new patients are added to the list each year.
Professor Dr Syed Nuruddin Ahmed, former head of the Plastic Surgery Department of Dhaka Medical College Hospital, also the project director of Smile Train, said: “Cleft lip patients should receive treatment within three months and cleft palate patients should receive treatment between nine and 18 months.”
“Patients should undergo treatment as early as possible for better results,” he added.
According to Sylhet Ibn Sina Hospital Marketing Manager Md Ubaidul Huq, the sort of surgery patients receive for free from Smile Train costs between Tk40,000 and Tk50,000 in general.