Cleft lips and palates are defects which develop very early during pregnancy and can be caused by a vast number of reasons. The joining of lip and jaw and/or the palatal plane during the first weeks of pregnancy is disturbed and depending on the extent severe deformities of the whole palate, jaw and lip are the result. The face is distorted strongly and functions such as swallowing and speaking are severely disturbed, the jaw is strongly disfigured, later hearing defects develop quite often. 

Boy with a total cleft lip and palate malformation

This deformity is common in the whole world and was already known to early peoples. In some countries it is much more common than where we come from, 1 estimated child per 500 births.

Continuous improvement of treatment in developed countries in the last decades ensures that patients can be cured completely with an early beginning of treatment. The treatment comprises primarily a surgical correction of the entire anatomy but also treatment by specialized dentists, ENTdoctors and speech therapists.

In developing countries, a majority of these otherwise healthy and normal children will never have an operation, as there is no medical infrastructure, specialists are missing and as the majority of the population cannot afford medical help.

Due to superstition and ignorance, small children are often hidden or even cast out by their families.

Boy with a complete bilateral cleft lip