Supporting awareness is a big part of Smile Train’s work. We strive to get the Smile Train name out to as many communities as we can, and we work to ease the fears of concerned parents, many of whom have never been told that their child’s cleft is completely treatable. Sometimes, however, misconceptions about cleft conditions can be deadly: Kiiza is a young boy from a community that believes that children with clefts are cursed and responsible for the misfortunes of the whole group. Sadly, this is not the first we’ve heard of practices like this. Kiiza’s story underscores the importance of Smile Train’s mission to provide information as well as treatment. Our partner Sister Doctor Najjuka, from Uganda wrote to us about this young man…
Kiiza was brought to us at the age of 13.
He was born to a cattle keeping community which believes that a child born with a craniofacial deformity brings a curse to the herd which results in loss of cattle.
Others like him are traditionally buried alive in a heap of cow dung, at birth and never see the light of day.
Luckily he was delivered in hospital, and by the time his clans mate took a decision about his fate the health care providers had already assured the mother that the child will grow up like any other if he receives care.
Care however didn’t come early since this community lives in the country side. An attempt to send him to school failed because he easily became a laughing stock in class being mocked and ridiculed.
The Mother didn’t lose hope about her son. When an announcement was made inviting all children with this deformity to come in for free surgery Sponsored by Smile Train, with a promise to assist with transport she borrowed money from her neighbors and brought him for surgery.
He was all praises to the Smile Train, and promised that though he is starting his studies late in life, he will work hard and become a doctor to help other children with similar problems, Thanks to the Smile Train.
Myths about clefts are still a major problem in developing countries, and one of the many challenges Smile Train faces. If Kiiza pursues his dream, he will be able to use his first-hand knowledge of the dangers of misinformation to help future generations of cleft children in Uganda.