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Today, as the shops and market stalls open in the town of Mkonu, Fred should be in school.
Fred is six, and was born with cleft lip and palate, a disabling birth defect that can occur in 1 out of every 600 to 800 births. Seeing a photograph is one thing, but when you sit close and look into the eyes of a child whose face is terribly malformed by cleft lip and palate, your heart aches for them.
Like so many children in Uganda, Fred fell through the net and his cleft lip and palate wasn't corrected by surgery soon after he was born, though it is a fairly common defect.
Today, as the shops and market stalls open in the town of Mkonu, Fred should be in school, but Fred spends most of his day hiding in his mother's vegetable stand. All his life other children have teased and ridiculed him. Others believe he is cursed and are afraid to come close. Some even throw stones. Fred doesn't attend school due to the teasing by other children; it is just too painful for him.
Dr. Andrew Hodges, a CBM surgeon in Uganda says "As well as his cleft lip which is frightening to look at, Fred has cleft palate, which means he can't speak properly. Many of these children don't survive, partly because they can't breast feed. For the rest who survive, they will be ostracised for the rest of their lives if they don't have corrective surgery."
It's a miracle Fred has survived at all, but he is alive today due to his mother Sissy's determination. As Fred was unable to feed well, she made a mixture of mashed bananas and milk, and painstakingly fed him throughout his infancy until he grew into a healthy boy.
Fred's mother Sissy and father Yusef couldn't afford surgery for Fred, or even the transportation to get to hospital. His father says "We dream that Fred can be treated and then go to school so he can have a better life."
A CBM local community support worker found Fred, and showed him pictures of other children like him. Fred had never seen anyone else with his condition before; he thought he was the only one. He also saw pictures of children who had received surgery to repair cleft lip and palate, and who could now eat, talk and swallow normally. More importantly, they had bright smiles!
We dream that Fred can be treated and then go to school so he can have a better life" - Yusef, Fred's father.
Untreated cleft lip and palate can often mean that a child and family experience social stigma that forces the parents to hide their children away. Surgical intervention mends the damage, but finding children who need our help is essential.
To find children with cleft lip and palate, often hidden away because of their appearance, CBM uses a network of Community Health Workers. After surgery, on-going rehabilitation services such as speech therapy can be made available if required.
Surgery to repair one child's cleft lip and palate costs just £160, and would give a child the gift of a smile, and a better chance at life.
Fred has now received surgery and support, and is back to school, but there are so many more children like Fred who need your help.
Please help a child like Fred today, with whatever gift you are able to give. Your gift really will transform lives.