Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) is providing free surgery for children suffering from cleft lips and palate.
Every year, around 5,000 children are born in Bangladesh with cleft lips and palate. Most of these children do not have access to proper treatment.
DMCH's cleft ward is now providing surgery for these children free of cost.
The hospital started the program in March 2016. Charitable organization Cleft UK and DMCH Burn and Plastic Surgery unit are jointly providing the services.
Operations take place at the hospital every Saturday, Monday and Wednesday, while Thursday is devoted to follow-up consultations. To date, some 350 children have undergone successful procedures.
Mohammad Kamal, 27, and his wife Shumi Akhter, 25, brought their six-month-old boy Junayed to the cleft ward.
“We heard the cleft ward has good facilities, that is why we came here,” Kamal and Shumi said.
“We are staying here for the last three days, let us see whether our son gets proper treatment or not,” the couple added.
Nazifa, a ten-month-old, was also brought to the cleft ward of DMCH.
Nazifa’s mother Tania Akhter said: “This is the first time we came here from our hometown in Narshindi.
“Nazifa was admitted ten days ago, we are still waiting for the operation date.”
Another parent, Shammi, 26, said: “My six months old daughter Jannat’s operation has been delayed for six months as she caught a cold. Doctors have given medicines to cure her cold.”
“Their service is very good, the nurses and doctors always come to check my daughter’s condition,” she said.
The coordinator of Cleft project and Associate Professor of Burn and Plastic Surgery unit Dr Mohammad Rabiul Khan said: “A lot of children who are born with cleft lips-palate also suffer from cardiac issues.
“Most of these patients need to do Echocardiography and blood tests, and for that the parents are not charged any money. The tests are done from Shamorita Hospital.”
“The money for these tests is given to the parents by DMCH authorities to save time and to prevent a delay in the operation.”
He said: “As it requires more time to conduct tests in DMCH, it is done at Shamorita Hospital."
Talking about the other free of cost services, Dr Rabiul said: “For maxinator mayo mucosal flap, palatal fistula, speech improvement surgical correction, residual infector surgeries are conducted on patients between the ages of three to six months."
However, surgeries for patients with cleft palate are between the ages of nine and 12 months while the speech therapy is given at the age of 2.5 years.
To cure the gum problems, the children are operated on at the age of seven to eight years but the patients require special care until the ages of 17 to 18, which is also provided by the cleft ward of DMCH.
Causes of Cleft lips and palate
When asked about the causes, Dr Rabiul Islam said: “It may happen if the father of the baby is aged, alcoholic or has a high level of Finyturine. Sinitic pill and genetic issues may also be a cause of the problem.”
He said: “We have seven plastic surgeons who are involved with the surgery of cleft lips and palate of children. Among them, Dr Samanta Lan Sen, Dr Abul Kalam Azad, Dr Raihana Azwal and Dr Sazzad Hossain are some of the best.”
There is one speech therapist and one orthodontist as well. A nurse has also been provided with special training from abroad. Additionally, the ward has a MLSS and a cleaner.
With 15 beds in the ward, doctors from all over Bangladesh refer cleft lip and palate related patients to this place.
Head of Burn and Plastic Surgery unit of DMCH Dr Samanta Lal Sen said: “The procedure to treat these children began three years ago and this ward is ready to provide services seven days a week fully free of cost.”
“We have a separate operation theatre where our own surgeons conduct surgeries,” the doctor added.