Samata Zakaria was born on May 20, 2014 to Sumaya Abdul and Zakari in northern Ghana, over 600 kilometres from the capital of Accra. Samata was fortunate to have an amazing midwife, Veronica Akumga, who provided care and support for Samata’s family after she was born with a cleft lip and palate. Veronica took Samata and her mother into her home for three days; during this time, she provided counselling for family members and reached out to our cleft care team in Accra.
In Ghana, superstitious beliefs are common, and as a result, cleft lip and palate and related conditions are often seen as a punishment for bad behaviour. This was the case for Samata’s parents who feared they would be rejected by their community of Worebogu. Thankfully, Veronica has seen posters about our cleft care program in her clinic and knew where to seek appropriate care for Samata and her family.
Sumaya immediately received over-the-phone counselling on nutrition which came as a great relief to both Sumaya and Veronica who were having challenges feeding the baby. By the time Samata arrived at our partner care centre in Accra, she was severely malnourished and was kept in the hospital for a three-month period so that she could be monitored closely. Because of breastfeeding challenges, infants born with cleft palate are disproportionately prone to malnutrition. This puts them at heightened risk of illness and death, and also delays when they can safely have their cleft repair surgery.
In November 2014, Samata had reached a safe weight and was able to have her lip repaired. After surgery, Samata and her family returned to Worebogu where they were welcomed by the community. She has since had her cleft palate repaired at our cleft care centre and is doing well.
Samata after surgery