When it comes to nutrition, studies suggest that people with disabilities are three times more likely to be malnourished and twice as likely to perish. While strides have been made to work towards meeting global targets to reduce grave forms of malnutrition such as low birthweight, child stunting and wasting, the Covid-19 pandemic was a global wakeup call that sparked the crucial need to double down on efforts and scale investment in global nutrition.
In many countries, nutrition support programs are non-existent, inaccessible, and not efficiently designed to address the unique needs of babies impacted by clefts. Even at treatment facilities where patients receive cleft surgery, lack of awareness, trained specialists, and overall resources greatly limit access to essential nutrition services.
Ensuring that mothers have access to nutrition programs to learn the right techniques to feed their infants with clefts is a vital part of comprehensive cleft care. Without these programs, babies with clefts are at risk of becoming undernourished, which can delay cleft surgery and permanently impact their overall physical and mental development. Specialized support gives babies with clefts the opportunity to have the best start in life and enables them to thrive without being held back by challenges related to cleft.
While essential to healthy development, good nutrition is only half the battle. Addressing malnutrition remains one of the world’s greatest challenges and provides healthcare providers and organizations alike the opportunity to ignite change and secure the future of children.
So, what is Smile Train doing to close the gap when it comes to care and nutrition to guarantee every person has access to safe, high-quality, comprehensive cleft care to lead a full and healthy life?
Over the course of the next five years, Smile Train has committed to scaling investment in awareness campaigns, partnerships, and training and education programs for healthcare workers to empower families affected by cleft and save children’s lives and futures.
The benefits of Smile Train’s increased nutrition programs are twofold as they not only aid mothers and children, but global networks of hospital partners and healthcare practitioners as well who play a key role in advancing the effort:
Benefits For Mothers & Children: More than 1 million mothers and children will benefit from counseling as it relates to cleft-specific feeding, resulting in 55,000+ cases of child malnutrition averted.
Benefits For Hospital Partners: More than 1,000 partner hospitals across more than 70 countries will be empowered to offer nutrition services to every mother and child pair affected by cleft. Similarly, more than 250 partner hospitals in an organized network will offer advanced nutritional care for malnourished children. More than 40,000 education opportunities on cleft nutrition will be made available to nutritionists, cleft team members, nurses, community health workers and advocates.
By following through on this commitment, Smile Train and its global network of partners and medical professionals will lead by example and become change agents that further accelerate the 2025 Global Nutrition Targets set forth by the World Health Organization and the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations.