Mukudzei Chingwere Herald Reporter
Zimbabwe has taken incredible positive steps in its health delivery system in the Second Republic, a United States of America (USA) based organisation with a global footprint has noted.
President and Chief Executive Officer of Love Without Reason, Mr Santhosh Mathews, who is here leading a medical experts team carrying out free cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals observed this during a patients’ registration exercise at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals yesterday.
Parirenyatwa, with support of global partners, will today start free surgeries for cleft lip as well as cleft palate up to Friday. Yesterday, authorities were seized with patients screening and registration.
The exercise is set to see more than 100 children benefiting from the corrective surgery.
Mr Mathews, whose organisation works in countries like the USA, India, Kenya, Zimbabwe has several prior annual visits to Zimbabwe and has used local hospitals for the surgeries.
He reserved special praise for Zimbabwe’s healthcare professionals whom he has worked with in delivering orofacial clefts corrective surgeries.
“We are here to do cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare. We have been doing surgeries in India, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe of course and many other places,” said Mr Mathews.
“We have doctors from different countries that have come here, medical teams and professionals from India, the UK (United Kingdom), Kenya, South Africa and local teams here in Zimbabwe.
“We came in 2017, we came in 2018. We were here in 2019, 2020 and now we are here in 2023.
“But I feel that a lot of incredible steps were taken forward (improving the health sector). When we came in 2017, it was a very different world but now things have changed dramatically.
“I feel there are a lot of improvements. Of course, there are shortages in medical supplies but that is a universal issue.
“The local doctors are led by Dr Wayne Manana who is an incredible doctor. His quality of surgeries is amazing. He and other doctors here have done a fantastic job.
“This is an opportunity for us to collaborate and there are skills transfer happening that we are learning from each other,” said Mr Mathews.
Dr Manana urged parents to bring their children with orofacial clefts forward so that the backlog of such elective surgical procedures can be cleared as this camp is doing surgeries for free.
In Zimbabwe at public hospitals these surgeries are done for free but at private facilities it costs between US$4 000 and US$6 000.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that occur when a baby’s lip or mouth do not form properly during pregnancy.
“The purpose of this activity is to operate on children born with cleft lip and palate for free, this is the commonest birth defect around the face and if you look at the whole body is the second commonest,” said Dr Manana.
“In Zimbabwe we get about 500 per year and we have been operating between 50 to 100 per year so there has been a huge backlog.
“We do not operate a lot; a cleft surgery is considered not an emergency operation. Parirenyatwa and Sally Mugabe Hospital, being central hospitals, get a lot of patients with other conditions like cancers, road traffic accidents, infections. Those ones usually take precedence; they go ahead of clefts.
“The only ideal set up for these children to be assisted is a camp set-up where we say we are only doing clefts.
“This condition in Zimbabwe (at government hospitals) is treated for free, so there is no reason why someone will stay with a child like this at home. It’s not a curse, it’s a condition that can be repaired and the transformation is so beautiful,” said Dr Manana.
Mrs Spelled Sunde came with her daughter from Kariba:
“We are happy with this camp because we cannot afford to take the private route. It is difficult for us parents not to be able to help our children and I am happy for this free surgery. I pray the surgery goes well,” said Mrs Sunde
Mrs Machiridza Shamiso from Rusape, mother of a four-year-old girl due for surgery: “I want to thank government for organising this camp to do free surgeries. I am happy and confident that my daughter will now be able to lead a normal life,” she said.
Mrs Ineth Mandeya said her child was having problems feeding because of the condition and is optimistic it will be corrected by the team of doctors at the camp.