“Lack of Policies Denying Cleft Lip Kids Access Universal Health Care,” HENNET Protests

“Lack of Policies Denying Cleft Lip Kids Access Universal Health Care,” HENNET Protests

By Grace Mwende

Insufficient policies and legislative frameworks are a hindrance to cleft lip and palate children from accessing Universal Health Care (UHC) services.

Health CSOs in Kenya under the umbrella of HENNET  attributed several factors including lack of access to information regarding the available services, stigma, lack of Human Resource for Health (HRH), finances, infrastructure, commodities,

Despite the strides being achieved in the health sector, most notably the countrywide rollout in Kenya of UHC, HENNET noted that persons with cleft are still being left behind in accessing safe, quality and timely care.

Cleft is a congenital birth defect which affects the child’s ability to breath, eat, speak and ultimately thrive.

“Because of the unfounded myths and misconceptions, children are isolated, stigmatized and abandoned or in some communities even get killed. It is difficult to imagine living with an untreated cleft and the associated physical challenges and mental trauma, simply because they were not aware that there is treatment available,” noted Dr.Mercy Onsando the Chief Executive Officer HENNET.

Dr.Mercy, who was speaking during the UHC day 2021, which was held on 10th December urged parents with children with cleft not to shy away from seeking for help.

The management of the birth difference is made more difficult due to ‘‘late’’ diagnosis of cleft and the lack of resources to enable prompt management.

According to research, Every three minutes, a child is born with a cleft somewhere in the world totalling to an annual estimated figure of more than 200,000 globally and over 39,000 from Africa, Which calls for the need to strengthen surgical systems that prioritize safe, timely and sustainable care for patients with cleft.

HENNET conducted UHC consultations in July 2021 and the findings demonstrated that such marginalized groups are often left behind (National Consultation on UHC – Kenya, held on 15th, July 2021.

As the world commemorates Universal Health Coverage on 12th December 2021, Health CSOs in Kenya under the umbrella of HENNET have urged the government to ensure patients with cleft are not left behind.

Inline with this year’s UHC theme “Leave no one’s health behind; invest in the health system for all” the health NGOs are calling on the government of Kenya to pay attention to the needs of children with cleft lip and palate and specifically ensure as we walk through the UHC journey this category of children/people are not left behind.

To create more robust surgical systems, Smile Train has been working with 22 partner hospitals in Kenya, 4 of which are public health facilities- Makueni County Referral Hospital, Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Nyeri County Referral Hospital and Embu County Referral Hospital.

Patients with cleft are not only able to receive free cleft surgery, but also comprehensive care including nutrition care and speech therapy treatment all year round. To address the need for strengthening human resources for health, Smile Train offers training to the diverse professionals within the cleft ecosystem, empowering them to care for all patients.