Kumasi, Ghana – Last week, nearly 300 cleft care providers from across Africa met to exchange ideas and learn about the latest in cleft care at the 4th Annual Pan African Association of Cleft Lip & Palate (PAACLIP) Scientific Conference. With the support of Smile Train and the dream of an association of local African partners working together to provide and improve quality cleft care throughout the continent, PAACLIP was started in 2007 with the help of Smile Train Medical Advisory Board member and world-renowned speech pathologist Dr. Linda D’Antonio.
In developing countries, one of the hardest tasks for Smile Train partners is combating the myths and superstitions that surround cleft lips and palates: proper awareness is even hard in the U.S. where July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness month. Creating proper awareness and discrediting superstitions has proven especially difficult in remote parts of Africa that have suffered from years and even decades of conflict. Luckily, through the dedicated efforts of Smile Train and PAACLIP members, awareness that clefts are repairable birth defects, not evil omens or curses from God, is on the rise and we are seeing more and more patients arrive at Smile Train partner hospitals each year.
The conference focused on strategies and opportunities to increase access to cleft lip and palate surgery and related services in Africa. As a whole, Africa has a shortage of qualified surgeons to provide cleft lip and palate surgery, placing innovative strategies for increasing the reach of current Smile Train partners and comprehensive training for new partners at the top of Smile Train’s priorities in Africa. PAACLIP has proven to be a fundamental building block to Smile Train’s expansion in Africa with a strong dedication to increased sustainability.
Let us solve African problems with us Africans.”
– Dr. Asrat Mengiste, newly appointed President of PAACLIP
Highlights of the conference include lectures from Smile Train Medical Advisory Board members Dr. Ethylin Wang Jabs on genetics and Dr. E. Heidi Jerome on anesthesia as well as Smile Train partners Dr. Adebola Adetokunbo (Nigeria), Dr. Jyotsna Murthy (India), and Dr. Roopa Nagarajan (India). Numerous Smile Train partners, hospital administrators, and leading professionals in the region presented best practices in follow up care in rural areas, delivery of speech services, outreach programs, and cleft awareness and community mobilization programs. The PAACLIP conference was a resounding success and was capped off by a tribute to Dr. D’Antonio for her efforts as well as the announcement of the new PAACLIP leadership, all of whom are Smile Train partners:
Dr. Asrat Mengiste – President (Ethiopia and Kenya)
Dr. Pius Agbernoku – Vice President (Ghana)
Dr. Meshach Onguti – Secretary General (Kenya)
Dr. Ashraf Emarah – Assistant Secretary General (Kenya)
Dr. Rose Alenyo – Treasurer (Uganda)
Dr. Peter Olaitan – Financial Secretary (Nigeria)
Dr. Edward Wayi – East African Representative (Tanzania)
Dr. Adebola Adetokunbo – West African Representative (Nigeria)
Dr. Saraiva Simao – South African Representative (Mozambique)
Dr. Emmanuel Crezoit – Francophone Representative