Every year, July is the National Cleft and Craniofacial awareness and prevention month because of the high prevalence. Cleft and craniofacial anomalies are birth defects that affect the lips, palate and other conditions of the head and face. Congenital anomalies (birth defects) affect 2-3% of all babies and remain one of the major causes of mortality and morbidity among infants and children respectively.
Although oral and palate clefts are one of the most commonly known anomalies others include; jaw deformities, malformed or missing teeth, defects in the ossification of facial or cranial bones and facial asymmetries. Statistically, clefts are found to be more common among Asian and African populations. These could be due to several factors such as drug exposure, poor pre-natal nutrition, heredity and environmental factors.
Some cleft or craniofacial defects are mild and won’t prevent an individual from living a meaningful and impactful life whereas others cause inability to feed, impaired language development, increased risk of ear infections, hearing and dental problems etc. Usually, surgery can be fixed when the baby is born with a cleft lip or and palate. However, the cost associated with it is not affordable to many, limited access to reconstructive surgery and sometimes it can’t be fixed due to the associated risk/ severity of the defect. Furthermore, healthcare providers need to encourage pregnant women to have healthier lifestyles, make informed decisions about medication during pregnancy and quickly adapt to changes that prevent birth defects. African countries need to work together in creating awareness and fund research to prevent development of these conditions. Also, access to care, management and treatment should be made available for these conditions.
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