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Amid pandemic, Smile Train putting smiles on cleft patients� faces

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, July 20 - The COVID-19 lockdown affected all non-COVID related health issues since OPDs and regular hospital services had been paused due to government guidelines. This not only led to suspension of time-sensitive cleft-lip and palate surgeries, but also left cleft patients and their families anxious and confused.

This is where NGO Smile Train India�s Toll Free National Cleft Helpline � 1800 103 8301 � proved to be a blessing. The cleft helpline became a support system during the lockdown to answer queries of parents ranging from how to feed a newborn with cleft lip and palate, when would they be able to seek free cleft treatment for their child, to a young mother calling in after she was abandoned by her family because of her daughter was born with a cleft lip.

According to the NGO, it has received 300 such calls during the lockdown.

Surgeries are expected to resume in Assam shortly and the NGO has been supporting free treatment for cleft patients.

Cleft lip and palate, a birth anomaly, can be completely cured but it is important that children get treatment at the right age to live a healthy and productive life. This involves surgery and other related ancillary care. Delayed treatment can lead to speech and hearing problems, besides social stigma and isolation for the cleft patient. Smile Train India is an NGO which supports totally free cleft treatment. In the last 20 years, they have supported more than six lakh free surgeries for children across India.

Talking about the situation, Mamta Carrol, Smile Train�s vice president and regional director for Asia said that its toll-free cleft helpline was launched with the objective of creating a readily accessible national resource for cleft patients and it proved to be a huge support to patients and their families during the lockdown.

�With enhanced safety guidelines to protect both patients and health workers, our partner hospitals across the country are now slowly resuming cleft surgeries. In fact, surgeries will resume in Assam shortly and we are supporting free treatment for cleft patients,� she said.

Smile Train partner Dr Nivedita Goswami, managing trustee at the city-based KGMT Multi-speciality Hospital said that treatment for cleft lip and palate should not be delayed beyond a certain time as it leads to larger problems such as incorrect speech, orthodontic problems, etc.

�With the support of Smile Train, we have been able to provide safe and quality treatment to children born with cleft lip and palate to ensure they lead a productive life. Cleft is treatable and we are committed to help many more children across Assam,� she added.

Smile Train has supported more than 5,500 surgeries in Assam through its partner hospitals KGMT Multi-speciality Hospital in Guwahati, Srishti Hospitals & Research Centre, Dibrugarh, and Mediland Hospital, Silchar.

Smile Train empowers local medical professionals with training, funding, and resources to provide free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children globally. It advances a sustainable solution and scalable global health model for cleft treatment, drastically improving children�s lives, including their ability to eat, breathe, speak, and ultimately thrive.

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