In April 2022 four-year-old Yeneneshe, has surgery for her cleft lip in Bahir Dar - the Amhara Region. She is her mother Sifaan's third child and the only child in the family who has been affected by cleft lip and palate.

They heard about Project Harar from Health Extension Workers - who are multi disciplinary health workers and representatives who travel out from their regional base into remote and rural areas. Sifaan told us it was a six hour drive to the hopsital.

Children born with cleft lip and palate often come up against obstacles, when making friends, interacting with their community and being included in education. This is because in very rural and remote areas, there is often limited knowledge and awareness around health conditions that cause facial difference. On top of this infants face a multitude of developmental barriers - that can continue as they grow, unless they receive treatment. Barriers start from difficulties with breast feeding, food and liquids can sometimes be rejected through the baby's nose if they have a cleft palate, because of this infants an children with untreated cleft conditions are more at risk from malnutrition and stunting.

I didn’t feed her my breast at all. She grew up with the help of God. Luckily health workers around our region told me what kind of powdered milk I should give her. After she was older than six months, I started to cook her some traditional foods such as atimit, genfo and shiro.

As a mother I felt bad when I knew how my daughter was born. I totally started to blame myself because I thought God punishing me. I blamed myself a lot until I spoke to the doctor and realized that it wasn’t my fault.

But I was scared to show her to people, I didn’t even take her to get her early vaccinations until she was three months old. So you can imagine how the other relatives would react when they saw her, they used to ask me 'why did God give you this kind of baby when you are this poor and can’t do anything for her, this is just an additional problem for you' and so on. But I thank God because my daughter survived and still alive. God knew why he gave me, she is my blessing.

Siffan told us they do farming for a living. And we asked her how they were feeling about the surgery, she said:

What would I want more than treatment for my daughter ? I thank all of you for doing this, I can’t wait until she starts school next year.

Help Project Harar continue to provide vital services to families so they can access cleft lip and palate treatment.

As well as addressing the barriers associated with the distance and cost of families in rural areas reaching treatment, we work year round to break down stigma around cleft conditions and spread positive and accurate information in rural communities. 

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