When little Merwa was born, her mother Rocla was shocked and frightened.  She had never seen a child with a cleft lip before. ‘I was really scared when I gave birth to Merwa and saw her for the first time,’ she said. ‘Nothing can prepare you for that feeling.’

She was also unprepared for the stigma she would face in being the mother of a child with cleft. ‘I have three children, including Merwa,’ she said. ‘Neither of my other two children have cleft. People blamed me for her condition. They asked me if my grandmother had genetic problems, all sorts of things.’

Rocla knew that if she was being stigmatised for having a child with cleft, things could only be worse for little Merwa. She told us, ‘I kept thinking that she would never have a normal life, could never have the opportunities that my other children will have.’

Luckily, a government health worker saw Merwa and told Rocla not only that having a baby with cleft was not her fault, but also that Project Harar could provide a free life-changing operation for Merwa.  The charity paid for Rocla and Merwa to travel over 500 miles from the Somali region of Ethiopia to the capital, Addis Ababa. There, Merwa had surgery for her cleft lip in Kadisco Hospital, where she and Rocla stayed overnight. Project Harar then paid for them to return home again.

‘I’m so happy now, and so surprised!’ said Rocla. ‘I can’t believe she looks this good. I want Merwa to be a doctor when she grows up, so she can do good for others in the same situation.’

‘I want to say thank you so much to Project Harar for giving my daughter this opportunity,’ she added. ‘I feel that today is the day that my child was truly born.’