Esteban Lasso, TF’s Executive Director, recently visited our project in Peru. Here, he shares his observations. 

Elen Mallqui Garay learns about the importance of oral health

In June, I visited our KusiRostros project, a new and innovative project which aims to help close the gap in cleft care. In January 2012, following a feasibility study, Transforming Faces established a project in Lima, Peru to provide decentralized care for families of children with cleft lip and palate in four poor areas of Lima. The project will span three years and aims to develop an effective, accessible model to offer complete health care.

The focus of the project will be four Community Rehabilitation Centres (CRCs), which will mitigate many obstacles, including geographical distance, allowing low income families better access to quality treatment close to their homes.

These are some of the key findings of the study that demonstrate the urgent need to decentralize services and respond to the unmet needs of patients:

  • 82% of interviewed families with children with CLP earn less than the minimum salary.
  • There is no proper statistics on CLP incidence. Available data currently indicates that prevalence ranges anywhere between 1:650 and 1:1000 live births in Peru.
  • Post surgery cleft care is available in main hospitals and health care centers. However, 71% of interviewed parents travel 2-7 hours to access cleft rehabilitation care. Add to this factor the cost in transportation, the result is that only 21% of families continue with post surgery treatment which not always includes comprehensive rehabilitation.
  • 97% of interviewed parents viewed surgery as part of the solution for their children’s cleft treatment; 50% mentioned speech therapy as part of the solution
  • Only 29% of mothers received feeding counselling.
  • Many families move to Lima to find treatment for their children. 1 in 3 interviewed families come from provinces outside Lima.

The implementation of the CRC network has been a success.  In five months, approximately 80 patients have been treated and over 100 patients were evaluated.  Considerable reduction in transportation, waiting time and savings are by-products of this new service that is being provided to families with children with cleft lip and palate in Lima.

I had the pleasure of visiting the CRC located in San Martin de Porras, pictured above, where families residing in the Northern area of the city can now access basic cleft rehabilitation on a continual basis.  This CRC is housed in a clinic run by a local parish.  All CRCs have been set up in underutilized infrastructure.  During my visit a psychologist was providing a parenting workshop while children were receiving their speech therapy session.  

You can see our work in action in the video below.  

Parents told me that the CRCs are greatly appreciated.  Families used to travel up to two hours to receive attention and pay $12 to receive speech therapy. Now they only have to travel 20 minutes to receive free speech treatment for their children.

Kusi Rostros is comprised of a team of two speech therapists, two nurses, one dentist, one psychologist, and one Communications Coordinator.  One important innovation was the inclusion of an anthropologist who is responsible for documenting the whole experience and compiling best practices.  Our goal is to develop a model that could be shared with other organizations in expanded beyond Lima and Peruvian borders. The Anthropologist is also helping Maria Teresa, Kusi Rostros’ coordinator, to organize an Interdisciplinary Congress, which will take place in November. Stay tuned for more details on this Congress!

At the core of our work is the unwavering philosophy that surgery is an important part of a child’s treatment, but it’s just the beginning of the journey. Specialized support and rehabilitation, from speech therapy to dentistry, audiology to counselling, is needed by every baby born with a cleft. 

We will be posting more videos from Esteban’s trip in the coming weeks – so stay tuned!