PESHAWAR: A 10-member team of surgeons has arrived from Italy to perform free surgeries on the children with cleft lips and palates at Burn and Plastic Surgery Centre, Hayatabad Medical Complex.

“Worldwide, there is one cleft lip and palate case in every 1,400 people but in Pakistan the ratio is 1:500 because the defect is directly related to poverty and malnourishment and marriages between cousins,” Prof Tehmeedullah, the director of the centre, told Dawn.

The visiting team of surgeons includes Dr Fabio Abenavoli, Fabio Pierannunzi, Stefano Antonelli, Christian Coppolino, Francesca Paris and others, who are members of Smile Train International, an NGO, carrying out free surgery of children with cleft lips and palates to enable them to remove their deformities and live normally.

Prof Tehmeed said that families of such children faced social stigma.

The visiting team will also hold a seminar on health journalism

He added that it had been noted that parents could not go out with the affected children in public due to social stigma.

“We started such free operations in 2002. So far, we have operated on 5,000 patients, the results of which are in line with the international standards. During the weeklong activities, our team will conduct about 70 surgeries without charges,” he said.

Dr Tehmeed, who is also president of Pakistan Association of Plastic Surgeons, said that the main cause of increase in cleft lip and palate cases in the country was marriages between cousins as well as poverty.

“We can reduce the burden through avoidance of cousin marriages and ensuring that pregnant women regularly visit the doctors so they could get ante-natal care and use the multivitamins as per advice of their doctors. We recommend birth-gapping to reduce the incidences,” he said.

He said that the ideal age for undergoing cleft lips surgery was six months and for palate 18 months. He said that child-bearing women should also check their blood pressure regularly to stay safe from complications.

Prof Tehmeed said that the visiting team comprising surgeons of international repute would also examine the patients, who had developed post-burn complications and contractures and head and neck reconstructions. “We expect more than 200 procedures, big and small by the team, which will be backed by our nine faculty members, as many consultants and 19 trainee medical officers,” he added.

He said that they had asked the patients with complicated issues to arrive to be examined by the experienced surgeons free of cost. “We hope that most of the patients, who have received post-burn treatment, will be benefitted. Deformities in hands are another area where we have called upon the people to be at the centre and get free checkups and surgeries,” he added.

Prof Tehmeed said that they had also planned to expand plastic surgery and reconstructive services to other districts.

“There are a lot of patients coming to the 120-bed centre for treatment. They develop complications while coming to the centre. Once, we have trained surgeons and infrastructure at the district level, we can achieve the desired results and stay safe from serious problems in future,” he added.

The visiting team, he said, would also conduct a seminar on ‘eye care and health journalism’ under the supervision of medical journalist Lucas Duran, a member of the team, at Pakistan Institute of Community Ophthalmology (PICO), Hayatabad Medical Complex on Tuesday.

He said that PICO chairman Prof Sanaullah Jan would be host of the event where matters relating to health journalism would be discussed by experts.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2022

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