In Ethiopia, about one in every 600 babies is born with cleft lip and palate.  Most patients are older children and adolescents, and there is an urgency to provide treatment before adulthood so that they can learn to communicate, perform at school and become productive citizens.

We have worked in partnership with Yekatit 12 Hospital in Addis Ababa since 2007. Yekatit 12 is the only public hospital in the country that provides multidisciplinary treatment for cleft lip and palate.

Since 2007, Yekatit 12 has performed 280 surgeries and 4,219 rehabilitation sessions thanks to the partnership with Transforming Faces.  Over the last year, the team at Yekatit 12 has provided treatment for over 200 cleft patients. This includes:

  • 32 secondary surgeries
  • 172 patients assessed in Speech Language Therapy unit
  • 336 intensive Speech Language Therapy sessions for 46 patients
  • 48 patients received orthodontic treatment
  • 130 patients received basic dental care
  • 83 patients received ENT (ear nose and throat) treatment
  • 123 patients received social work counseling


We set out to provide technical and professional support for 11 team members. Over the past year, we have supported the team in the following initiatives:

  • International Cleft Congress: Three members invited to submit abstracts & attended the 12th International Congress on Cleft Lip/Palate and Related Craniofacial Anomalies from May 5 – 10, 2013 in Orlando, Florida. Convening every four years at locations around the world, the Congress is devoted to promoting and facilitating the care of individuals with cleft lip and palate and related craniofacial anomalies.
  • Supporting Research: Dr. Mekonen Eshete, Cleft lip and Palate Project Director and a Plastic Surgeon at Yekatit 12, is also spearheading a genetic study of non-syndrome clefts in people of African descent.  He hopes to gain some insight about the causes of cleft lip and palate in order to reassure new and expecting parents. The study should be completed by 2015.
  • PACT: In Ghana, Nigeria and Ethiopia, our Partners in African Cleft Training (PACT) project supports local surgeons and specialists in the development and delivery of advanced training programs in plastic surgery, anaesthetic nursing and speech therapy. This project is coordinated by Seattle Children’s Hospital and funded by Transforming Faces. The third and final training took place at Yekatit 12 Hospital Burn/CLP project, Speech Therapy unit, Addis Ababa- Ethiopia from 18th March – 25th April 2013. A total of four trainees attended from Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria. In total, 13 speech assistants from Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria were trained over three years. The curriculum and modules developed for the training period will be used for further trainings in future.
  • Training in Taiwan: Dr. Mekonen Eshete and Dr. Shiferaw, an orthodontist at Yekatit, attended an orthognathic surgery training at the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital´s Craniofacial Center in Taiwan on September 26-28, 2013. The workshop focused on cooperative approaches by both surgeons and orthodontists in treating problems related to cleft lip and palate. 
  • Speech Therapy Program in Ethiopia: TF funded a workshop which assessed the need for establishing speech therapy training at the university level in Ethiopia in November 2012. Addis Ababa University’s Department of Special Needs Education agreed in principle to house a two-year diploma program to start in late 2013.  As of January 2013, this initiative has received some seed funds from the Norwegian Programme for Capacity Building in Higher Education and Research for development (NORHED), in order to develop the curriculum.  Transforming Faces has begun reaching out to Canandian universities and organizations in the hopes of contributing to an Ethiopian-led diploma program in Speech Therapy.