While the Union Health Ministry is formulating guidelines on uniform treatment protocol for kids born with cleft lips and palates, the Indian corporates are increasingly coming up with support to cure this common and neglected congenital facial deformity.
Sources said from the Tata Trusts to companies such as BPCL, Muthoot Pappachan Group, Lay's, GSK Consumer, Himalaya and IFFCO are tying up with expert non-governmental organisations to conduct screening, surgeries and post surgery rehabilitation of babies with cleft lips and palates.
"Experts say in India, one out of 750 babies are born with this deformity and more than half of them fail to cross the first birthday, mainly because of malnutrition and inability of the poor parents to fund the surgeries. Therefore, more and more corporates should come forward to support the correction surgeries and rehabilitation," Thomas John Muthoot, chairman and managing director of the Muthoot Pappachan Group (MPG) told Business Today.
On average, more than 35,000 babies in India are born with clefts every year and annually, at least 1.5 lakh surgeries are being done in India. The country currently has only 210 designated cleft lip and palate centres and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) recently opened an 'Interdisciplinary Cleft Lip and Palate Clinic', a first of its kind initiative to provide integrated care under one roof. Corrective surgeries and rehabilitation should start after six months and last until the child becomes three years old. The surgery costs over Rs 1 lakh, depending on the deformity. Cleft patients face issues in breathing, eating, dental, hearing, speech, appearance, psychological stress and social ostracisation, said Dr Prasanthkumar Nellickal, CSR Head, Muthoot Pappachan Group.
The flagship CSR programme of Muthoot Pappachan Foundation, 'Smile Please', a free surgery mission partnership is being done in partnership with Mission Smile, an expert cleft care organisation. Launched in 2004, 25,000-plus surgeries have been done in India. About 15,000 staff of the 3500-plus Muthoot branches in India have been trained to identify people with cleft lips and create awareness among the public in the respective locality, he said.
Sources said Smile Train, another expert cleft organisation, has done over six lakh surgeries in India, in association with various corporate organisations. At present India lacks clear treatment protocols and now an expert committee has been set up under the Indicleft task force project with funds and support from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to formulate guidelines for cleft care in India. Cleft patients require multidisciplinary treatment approach, involving specialists in genetics, psychology, nursing, plastic surgery, pediatrics, orthodontics and speech and language, from birth until adulthood to cure and lead a normal life. Reasons for the deformity include many factors such as genetic issues, malnutrition of mothers, smoking during pregnancy, diabetics etc.