Country: Senegal

Age: 4

Surgery: Cleft Lip Repair

Share Hamadou’s story

Hope for Hamadou

Hamadou is a very brave little boy. Born with a cleft lip, Hamadou has already overcome so much in his first four years of life.

Maybe you know someone who was born with a cleft lip. If you do, you’ll know how it can be hard for a little baby to feed, and also how hard it is for parents to see their child go through.

In the UK, a baby born with a cleft will be offered free surgery at three months old. Sometimes, a cleft can take 20 or more operations to repair. In some cases, a cleft lip can continue to affect a person’s quality of life until they are an adult.

It’s incredible what many cleft families overcome. These days, thankfully, a child born with a cleft lip in the UK will have support from specialist cleft centres in hospitals, as well as free treatment by specialist nurses, surgeons, psychologists, speech therapists, dentists and orthodontists.

A life-threatening condition

Sadly, children like Hamadou born with a cleft lip in sub-Saharan Africa have next to no medical care.

In countries like Senegal, where there is only one doctor per 10,000 people, this treatable condition can become life-threatening.

Hamadou’s gap in his upper lip made it hard for him to swallow and eat, as well as how his teeth were growing. Without enough nutrition, children Hamadou are much more vulnerable to catching diseases like malaria.

And because there was no awareness of what a cleft lip is in the community, he was seen as ‘cursed’.

In Hamadou’s community, people drink water from a large pot that they share with guests and members of the family. “People would not want to drink from the same water pot as him,” said his mum Hawa.

While Hamadou was isolated, his mum was always by his side providing constant support.

A little fighter

Hawa brought Hamadou for screening for Mercy Ships. She was so happy to hear he could have free surgery on our floating hospital, the Africa Mercy.

Mary Toupin, one of our volunteer nurses, could see that this little boy was a fighter.

“As an infant, it can be really challenging to eat, because the cleft lip impacts the ability to breastfeed and drink milk,” she explained. “The fact that Hamadou was four years old, and had lived his whole life with a cleft lip, means that he had overcome a lot.”

“I asked his mother several times, ‘How did you raise a child who is so strong and brave?’”

It was a simple surgery to heal his cleft lip. A few weeks afterwards, the swelling in Hamadou’s face had subsided, and he was able to smile like never before in his life. Discharged from the Africa Mercy hospital, Hamadou and Hawa returned to their home to their village in eastern Senegal.

The operation had come just in time to fulfil Hawa’s wish for Hamadou to go to school, with nothing holding him back.

Thanks to you, children like Hamadou can find healing, make friends, and develop their own gifts and talents. Give today to bring hope and healing to another family who urgently needs medical care.