Many of us have a life full of promises and opportunities. We have dreams, sometimes those dreams come true but for many children especially in rural Ghana, their dreams are almost cut short from the moment they are born. This is due to a common deformity known as cleft lip palate.
Cleft is a common birth condition which occurs alone or as part of a genetic condition or syndrome with symptoms arising from the opening in the mouth due to difficulty in speaking and feeding.
Not only that children born with this condition are disgraced and neglected but in some extreme cases killed. Aside from living in shame, these children have difficulties with eating, breathing and speaking. Many of them can’t come out to play let alone attend school because of the stigma attributed to them.
According to Patience Ajida, a sachet water seller and the mother of 2-year-old Shine Akoli, society’s stigma against her child really affects her.
“Some people don’t even come close to us. They see my child as an animal or god. Most people will never lend a helping hand to us because of this sickness. I was tired and had lost hope that my child may never be healed.”
After years of societal stigma, it took 45 minutes within a day for Patience’s child life to change. Technology giant Samsung Electronics partnered Operation Smile to conduct free surgeries for 155 cleft children at the Volta Regional Hospital and little Shine was a beneficiary.
Patience traveled with her little daughter from Kpongin the Greater Accra Region to Ho to undergo the free surgery.
Today, little Shine has been healed. She’s happy. No more keeping her away from the public. “I’m very happy to see my baby healed. We are grateful to Samsung and the Operation Smile project. There was no way I was going to be able to raise money for this operation,” Patience said.
The excited mom added, “I’m now proud to take my daughter outside to the market and to community activities which wasn't the case when Shine had a cleft and had to keep her indoors all the time.”
Samsung, under its “Smile with Samsung” initiative provided free funding to support Ghanaian children to undergo free cleft surgeries.
The initiative saw the company donating $1 for every authorized Samsung smartphone bought and registered on e-warranty towards the surgeries. It raised $25,000. Part of the funds was also used to feed all the beneficiaries to gain the required weight weeks before the surgery operation.
“We are excited by the fact that our contribution is the highest donation made to Operation Smile. With just 45 minutes we were able to change the lives of people who didn’t believe in possibilities. At Samsung, we always want to give back to society because Ghana has been good to us,” said Tracy Kyei, Marketing Manager at Samsung Electronics.
She thanked Samsung consumers for supporting the initiative adding “as this initiative would not have been possible without them”.
For Operation Smile, they have been providing free cleft surgeries in Ghana since 2011. Its medical outreach has reached many across Ghana in cities including Accra, Cape Coast, Tamale, and Tema.
Statistics have shown that every 3 minutes a child is born with cleft worldwide and in Ghana 1 out of every 750 births. Out of every 10 children living with cleft 1 dies before their first birthday.