The COVID-19 lockdown affected all non-COVID related health issues since OPDs and regular hospital services had been paused due to government guidelines.

This not only led to the suspension of time-sensitive cleft lip and palate surgeries but also left cleft patients and their families anxious and confused.

This is where NGO Smile Train India’s Toll-Free National Cleft Helpline – 1800 103 8301 – proved to be a blessing.

The cleft helpline became a support system during the lockdown to answer queries of parents ranging from how to feed a newborn with cleft lip and palate, when would they be able to seek free cleft treatment for their child, to a young mother calling in after she was abandoned by her family because of her daughter was born with a cleft lip. 300 such calls were received during the lockdown.

Cleft lip and palate, a birth anomaly, can be completely cured but it is important that children get treatment at the right age to live a healthy and productive life.

This involves surgery and other related ancillary care. Delayed treatment can lead to speech and hearing problems, besides social stigma and isolation for the cleft patient.

Smile Train India is an NGO which supports totally free cleft treatment. In the last 20 years, they have supported more than 6 Lakh free surgeries for children across India.

Talking about the situation, Mamta Carrol, Smile Train’s vice-president and Regional Director for Asia said, “Our Toll-Free Cleft Helpline was launched with the objective of creating a readily accessible national resource for cleft patients and it proved to be a huge support to patients and their families during the lockdown.”

“With enhanced safety guidelines to protect both patients and health workers, our partner hospitals across the country are now slowly resuming cleft surgeries,” Carrol said.

“In fact, surgeries will resume in Assam shortly and we are supporting free treatment for cleft patients,” Carrol.

Smile Train partner Dr Nivedita Goswami, Managing Trustee at KGMT Multispeciality Hospital, Guwahati said, “Treatment for cleft lip and palate should not be delayed beyond a certain time as it leads to larger problems such as incorrect speech, orthodontic problems etc.”

“With the support of Smile Train, we have been able to provide safe and quality treatment to children born with cleft lip and palate to ensure they lead a productive life,” Goswami said.

“Cleft is treatable and we are committed to helping many more children across Assam,” Goswami added.

Smile Train has supported more than 5,500 surgeries in Assam through its partner hospitals KGMT Multispeciality Hospital in Guwahati, Srishti Hospitals & Research Centre, Dibrugarh and Mediland Hospital, Silchar.

To avail free cleft treatment, please call Toll Free Cleft Helpline – 1800 103 8301.

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