Manila folk get ‘Gift of Smiles’

Manila Standard | Written by Sandy Araneta | March 13, 2017

In his continuing effort to provide medical aid to indigent Manileños, Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada has partnered anew with a US-affiliated charity organization to treat residents, particularly children, who were born with cleft lips and palates and other facial deformities.

Estrada has inked a memorandum of agreement with Operation Smile Philippines on Feb. 24 for this year’s “Gift of Smiles” program intended to provide free surgery and rehabilitation to cleft-defective children.

“The city government is giving much emphasis on this group of disabled individuals, especially children. We want to give them back their confidence so they would become responsible and productive citizens when they grow up,” Estrada said.

Under the agreement, OSP, in cooperation with volunteer doctors and other medical professionals, will conduct free screening, surgery, and post-medical care to patients referred by the Manila Health Department.

OSP is the local affiliate of Operation Smile International, a volunteer-based medical charity that has provided hundreds of thousands of free surgeries for children and young adults in developing countries who are born with cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial deformities since 1982. It is based in Virginia, US.

OSP will conduct the reconstructive surgeries at the Manila Cleft Care Center at the city-run Sta. Ana Hospital.

Allocated by the city government of Manila on the 8th floor of the Sta. Ana Hospital, the facility serves as a treatment and surgery center for children afflicted with cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities. Post-operative care such as speech therapy and dental care are also made available to patients.

MHD chief Dr. Benjamin Yson said dozens of children and adults with cleft lips and cleft palates have been identified and referred by the city’s community health centers to MCCC for treatment.

“Our participation, since we are community-based, is to really look for patients with harelip, those are being treated in Operation Smile,” Yson said.

Aside from providing the operating rooms and facilities at the Sta. Ana Hospital, he said the city-run hospital will also help OSP in giving out medicines to patients.

Having a cleft lip and cleft palate is a very serious condition, especially to children as young as two-years-old, Yson said, since it affects their brain and speech development, aside from complications such as Aspiration pneumonia, bronchitis and hearing problems.

“If you don’t hear well, if you don’t speak well and your confidence is in a very low level, then somehow it affects brain and personality development,” the MHD chief pointed out, citing the urgent need to treat young children aged two to five-years-old.

“All these treatment and surgeries are free. In our hospital, it’s free,” Yson added. It’s a holistic program, meaning from looking from them in the communities to bringing them to the hospitals up to complete rehabilitation.”

Cleft incidence among newborns in the Philippines is said to be one in every 500 newborns, which means that around 4,004 Filipinos out of 2,064 million born every year have this deformity.

The Department of Health (DOH) said the number of new cases reaches up to 5,000 every year.

A report from the Philippine Birth Defect Registry — a partnership of DOH and the US National Institute of Health’s Institute of Human Genetics — said cleft lip and palates are among the top 12 birth defects in the country.