Visiting Team Repairs Cleft Lips and Palates in Zimbabwe

Poverty, lack of specialists, high HIV prevalence overwhelm Zimbabwean medical community

THURSDAY, Oct. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Socioeconomic problems have led to the exodus of a large number of medical specialists from Zimbabwe, hampering the nation's ability to manage patients with cleft lip and palate, according to a report published in the Oct. 22 issue of the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery.

Annette M. Pham, M.D., of the University of California Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, and colleagues describe current practices of cleft care in Zimbabwe, and present a case review of 39 Zimbabwean individuals with cleft lip and palate repaired by a visiting surgical team.

Socioeconomic factors, including poverty and the highest inflation rate in the world, have led to emigration of a large number of medical specialists from Zimbabwe to other countries, creating a gap between available resources and patients needing cleft lip and palate repair. In addition, the high prevalence of HIV infection (25 percent) has further overwhelmed the nation's medical system.

A U.S. surgical team affiliated with the organization Operation of Hope visited Zimbabwe and performed surgery on 39 individuals, mostly children, with cleft lip and/or palate at Harare Hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe. The surgeries included primary repairs and revisions of earlier surgeries. No complications were reported.

"Ultimately, until the socioeconomic conditions improve in Zimbabwe, training and continuing education of local physicians are imperative to advance the care of children with cleft lip and palate," the authors write.

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