SMILE TRAIN TRAINS SCRIBES ON HEALTH AND CLEFT REPORTING
The charity is set on creating media partnerships to spread awareness on cleft lip defects in children
LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft-focused charity recently held an intensive two-day sensitisation workshop for local journalists on the prevalence and treatment of cleft. The training which brought journalists from print, TV and radio from different parts of the country aimed at educating them about the condition in order to dispel myths and misconceptions in the community, while showcasing the organization’s commitment towards providing sustainable surgical solutions in Zambia.
Smile Train’s Program Director for Southern Africa, Sibusisiwe Yona, explained that the organisation was hopeful that the training would form the bedrock of partnerships with the media that would help bring more awareness of the congenital defect and its treatment to communities across the country. “Children born with cleft experience difficulty in breathing, eating and speaking. Many who grow up with an untreated cleft live in hiding, are isolated and stigmatized because of the facial difference. Cleft is not a curse and is treatable through free safe surgery under Smile Train. There are still many people from low resource settings who do not know about this condition and to reach them, we engaged journalists so that they amplify the correct information and encourage patients to come forward to get help.” Mrs Yona explained.
Smile Train’s unique model of teaching a man to fish empowers local medical professionals with funding, training and resources to provide free, safe and timely comprehensive cleft care closer to those in need. Smile Train has partnered with over 245 hospitals and more than 255 medical professionals in 40 countries across Africa, including Zambia, to provide free comprehensive cleft treatment. To date, Smile Train’s local medical partners have provided more than 120,000 life-changing cleft surgeries across Africa.
The charity’s partners in Zambia include the Ministry of Health, Beit CURE, and Lusaka Orthopaedic Rehabilitation Education Trust (LORET). Most recently, Smile Train partnered with Scottish charity Kids Operating Room to refurbish pediatric theatres at University Teaching Hospital and Arthur Davidson Children’s Hospital with child-friendly aesthetics and world class equipment, enabling the hospitals to prioritize safe pediatric surgery. The positive impact has been a happier, more empowered workforce in administering treatment.
On his part, Arthur Davidson Children’s Hospital Medical Superintendent, Dr Mwansa Kaunda, hailed the power of partnerships in contributing to the greater agenda of Universal Health Coverage saying: “As a children’s hospital, patients were being referred to us, but we didn’t have the right equipment to administer quality surgery. Smile Train and KidsOR made a world of difference for the children of Zambia. The aesthetics help soothe our babies better and our teams can comfortably treat many more children” he said. To pique the interest of participants during the workshop, Smile Train also launched the Cleft Awareness Media Awards (CAMA) to reward journalists’ commitment in representing and championing the cause for people living with cleft in Zambia. The competition officially kicks off on May 1st -30th October, with the top journalist winning $600.
Speaking during the announcement of the awards, Smile Train PR and Communications Manager for Africa, Ms Emily Manjeru said it was important to have a way to not only reward journalists on their work reporting on cleft issues, but to also contribute to professional health reporting in the country. “The media are a key stakeholder in driving behaviour change and acceptance of people with cleft. CAMA awards are our strategic way of elevating the quality of health reporting and journalism, with a bias towards cleft awareness. We want to ensure that issues of cleft are being reported correctly, thus lifting the burden of stigma faced by those affected. We also need policy makers to know more about Smile Train in providing a sustainable, holistic solution towards strengthening our healthcare systems right here in Zambia,” she noted