WHAT IS CLEFT? > Cleft children in developing countries 

Cleft children in developing countries

For many children in developing countries being born with a cleft lip and palate means life-long social exclusion and physical and emotional suffering.

Immediately after birth, the survival of a cleft baby can be at risk: the cleft palate prevents a sufficient degree of suction during breastfeeding. The infant can only feed successfully if the mother learns a special feeding technique. Eating and drinking continue to pose considerable problems for older cleft children. As a consequence, the affected children in the developing countries are often undernourished and quickly catch infections.

Long-term effects of cleft

Because of the insufficient pressure equalisation when swallowing, children with cleft lip and palate have limited aeration of the middle ear, which will then lead to a gathering of liquid and subsequently a middle ear infection. Surgical implantation of tympanostomy tubes that facilitate the outflow of the liquid would be the solution, but countries with poor healthcare infrastructure often cannot provide this kind of ENT treatment. Ongoing accumulation of liquid can have dire consequences for the children, whose speech development is already impaired by the cleft itself: they are hard of hearing and therefore additionally handicapped when it comes to learning how to talk.

Emotional effects

The emotional suffering of these children is almost unimaginable. Due to their appearance they are often separated from society by their family, in the worst cases they are even kept locked away. The birth of a child with a deformity of the face is a cause for despair for many parents. They see their cleft child as a “curse” or an ill stroke of fate. As they often do not know that their child can easily be treated with an operation they try to hide it from friends, relatives and neighbours. Thousands of children in the developing countries thus vegetate for years in dark corners or back rooms. The parents themselves are also victims of their child's congenital deformation and take their actions out of shame, fear of social isolation, and a lack of knowledge of the alternative, i.e. the possibility of treatment. They wish for nothing more than a normal life for their child. 

Cleft children in developing countries
Cleft children in developing countries