The Cleft Infant Nutrition Program is specially designed for children with lip and cleft palates. Due to their condition, it is common for these children to be unable to breastfeed and for their parents to access the formula or special bottles they need. Consequently, these children are severely malnourished and unfit for the surgery they need to correct their condition. The goal is to bring these children to good health to ensure they are ready for surgery. Health Promoters visit each patient enrolled in this program at least once per month to provide parents with a formula, show them how to use it effectively, and monitor weight gain. This process takes one year on average. When it is time for surgery, the Health Promoter accompanies the patient and a family member to provide interpretation services and emotional support.
What is Cleft Lip/Palate?
According to CDC.gov, a “cleft lip and cleft palate are congenital disabilities that occur when a baby’s lip or mouth do not form properly during pregnancy. Together, these congenital disabilities commonly are called “orofacial clefts.” A cleft lip indicates an indentation in the upper lip and can continue to the nose, depending on the severity of the case. A Cleft palate, a more severe condition, refers to a gap between the two skull plates that form the hard palate or roof of the mouth.
This condition can be easily treated in developed countries. But in rural Guatemala, with no access to the proper medical care, or financial resources, many children suffer from frequent respiratory infections, have trouble speaking, have hearing problems, and will have severe feeding problems leading them to malnutrition and starvation. Unfortunately, many will not be accepted into their communities, and their families will often be stigmatized.
Cleft Lip/Palate in Guatemala
In 2018, Partner for Surgery conducted a pilot research study with 36 families with children born in 2018 with cleft lip and palate malformations in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. This research shows that,
- 81% of patients were born with cleft lip and palate malformation
- There was a 14% mortality rate for Cleft patients compared to a 2% mortality rate in children one year of age in Alta Verapaz and nationwide.
- Mothers aged 15-19 were at higher risk of having a baby with Cleft and
- Most cleft children were born in either the 1st. or 5th. Pregnancy
With such a high prevalence of patients encountered in rural Guatemala, Partner for Surgery was inspired to begin its Cleft Infant Nutrition Program. The implementation model of our program ensures that we are most efficient and effective in treating patients so we can bring hope to their families.
The health personnel of the Area Directorates, Hospitals, Health Centers, And midwives refer patients to our Health Promoters. All this is thanks to the fact that they know about the care and health services provided to patients and their families through our program.
Part of Partner for Surgery’s strategy in implementing our programs is partnering with local health promoters who live in the remote villages where we work. Recruited for their compassion and drive and trained in health education, our Health Promoters are passionate about getting help to those in need and ensuring families bring their children to a Partner for Surgery Rural Medical Mission.
Monthly Home Visits
All patients registered in our program receive personalized attention through our network of local health promoters, who provide patient and family care in their local language and in a culturally relevant manner.
According to their age, our children receive monthly nutritional supplements consisting of Formula Nan 1, Formula Nan 2, Similac, and Incaparina. In addition, they are given special bottles and nipples, and breast pumps for the mother in cases where breastfeeding is possible. During each home visit, the health promoters weigh the patient to monitor that the boy or girl has gained the right weight according to their age; all evaluations are performed according to WHO standards. From the first visit up to 24 months, a child will also need to be monitored for length to estimate linear growth. The health promoter is also trained to do learning sessions with each parent for health, nutrition, and hygiene issues. The goal is to empower parents to work towards the healthy well-being of their families.
As soon as the child reaches optimal nutritional and health status, our team takes the necessary steps so that they can receive surgery from the professional volunteer doctors in one of our surgical weeks.