A cleft is a congenital birth defect which may be of one or two sides of the lip (unilateral or bilateral), the palate or both. In the mother’s womb, the upper lip develops from three parts and the palate develops in two halves, which then join in the middle. A cleft occurs when they fail to join normally between the 6-8 weeks in utero.
Early treatment and repair of the lip (by one year of age) and the palate (by years of age) assist in the infant’s normal uptake of food, oxygen, development of speech and of course normal socialization.
Because a cleft lip and/or palate denies a child normal speech and appearance, these children are most often relegated to a lowly, impoverished life where they are likely to be denied the simplest privileges such as schooling, social contact and eventual employment to due to their deformity. What surgery gives to these children is the ability to develop, thrive and communicate not only through speech but something as simple as a smile without which they will not be able to fulfill their potential or assume their place in society.