Something happened last week which revived my faith in humanity a little.
I visited Lilongwe’s Kamuzu Central Hospital where the Operation Smile team were performing free surgeries for people with cleft lip and cleft palate. In contrast to what I’ve generally been seeing since arriving here, there were lots of action and a real sense of purpose about the whole operation. There was a real buzz about helping people genuinely in need. Between 150-175 people per day for a full week to be exact.
Cleft lips and cleft palates may not be the worst medical conditions compared to malaria, HIV and AIDS etc. But it’s truly horrific when you hear about newborns being discarding because of the belief that it’s “ju ju” (witchcraft) or simply because they cannot suckle and therefore breastfeed, so they catch fatal infections from being feed from unsterilised bottles.
I heard the story of one young man who traveled from Dowa on his own initiative. On the ubiquitous minibuses, taxis and walking. He heard about Operation Smile but was told by his community not to go because he would be killed due to his condition. He thought his chances were 50-50 and decided to go for it. He arrived in Kamuzu on late Thursday afternoon. Since he had not eaten all day due to travelling and the Smile team’s efficiency, he was seen and operated on straight away. Operation Smile took care of his overnight accommodation while he recovered, fed him and reimbursed his travel expenses. That’s what I call good service! He said there are lots more people affected by cleft lips or cleft palates in his area. Hopefully his community will now see that the conditions can be treated and organisations like Smile are here to help.
I met some of the Smile team at a Rotary International meeting the week before and they are a great bunch of people. Rotary was a major part of setting up this inaugural Smile mission in Malawi. Contributing via significant financial donations and invaluable local contacts and connections. It was great to see local well-off people caring and putting it into real action.
Keep up the great work Nici, Erin and Nadia!