Bela Risu Foundation in conjunction with Smile Train, The World’s Largest Cleft Charity, has today launched a Not-For-Profit Non-Government Organization BelaRisu Medical Centre (BMC), the first referral Comprehensive Cleft Care Centre in East and Central Africa that will provide FREE cleft services to those in most need.

BMC, located at Park Road Ngara, Nairobi, will provide life-changing and hope-restoring surgeries to children and adults with cleft lip and palate deformities. The center will provide Comprehensive Cleft Care services and training opportunities in East and Central Africa including:

  1. Specialized cleft services namely: Surgeries (cleft lip and palate surgeries), nutritional support, orthodontics, and speech therapy.
  2. Cleft training facilities and expertise in the form of capacity building, attachments, specialized skills transfer, and life support courses to healthcare professionals in the proposed region.
  3. Provide Psychotherapy and Behavior Change Communication Services to cleft patients, and their parents/guardians.

“With a comprehensive Cleft Care approach, we will provide Cleft Surgeries such as cleft lip and palate surgeries, rhinoplasties, alveolar bone grafting, orthognathic surgery, nutritional support, orthodontics, and speech therapy. We will also strive to empower local healthcare practitioners with the knowledge and skills to be able to provide these surgical services thus ensuring continuity of care,” said Dr. Martin Kamau, CEO Bela Risu Foundation. 

Cleft lip and palate is among the most common congenital disabilities found among live births. In Kenya, it is estimated that six children are born with cleft lip and/or cleft palate every day. The resulting facial deformity is devastating not only for the newly born infant but also for the affected family(s). 

Further, the visible facial defect not only has a detrimental effect on feeding, development of language, and hearing but also on psychological development due to the social stigma attached to it. Despite its common occurrence, it remains a surgically neglected disease due to healthcare policies prioritizing the management of communicable and non-communicable diseases such as Malaria, Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, Diabetes, and Cancer among others. 

“We conducted a needs assessment and the data obtained identified the absence of Comprehensive Cleft Care in the Sub-Saharan region of Africa. We also noted an increased demand for orthodontics, nutritional support, and speech therapy services amongst cleft patients. Previously, medical teams had to travel long distances to provide orthodontic, speech therapy, and nutritional support services and as a result, being expensive and logistically difficult to execute, hence the consideration of BMC to be part of the solution, added Dr. Kamau.

In addition, Smile Train Senior Program Director East and Southern Africa Mrs. Jane Ngige-Muturi commended Bela Risu for their consistency in providing quality cleft surgery, stating that Smile Train’s vision is to ensure that patients with cleft are able to receive holistic care closer to their doorsteps. 

“Smile Train’s model of partnering with local medical partners like Bela Risu ensures that patients need not wait too long or go too far to wait for the life-changing surgery.   Children with cleft may need additional care beyond surgery including nutrition, speech therapy, psychosocial support, and orthodontics to enable them to thrive. We are proud that with the Bela Risu Medical Centre up and running, patients will receive all the comprehensive care they need at no cost,” said Mrs. Ngige-Muturi.

BMC is also expected to ease the gap in outreach missions with patients now able to access the center of expertise from the triage stage to getting professional counselling and follow-up care. The Centre is a 30 in-patient bed facility with facilities for two acute care Units, two operation rooms, basic Laboratory services, a dental unit purposed for cleft treatment, a training center and Simulation lab, and 4 Consultation Rooms among others.

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