Difficulties in assessing credible data to aid intervention in cleft care in Nigeria will soon be a thing of the past, as the National Surgical Obstetrics Anaesthesia and Nursing Plan for Nigeria (NSOANP), with support from Smile Train have committed to boosting capacity of professionals in carrying out research on cleft.
Research has over the years not received the desired attention in Nigeria to guarantee effective intervention in any spheres. Experts say foreign organisations are mostly relied upon to access basic data; a situation they believe improved funding and skills of the indigenous researches could save the day.
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To this end, the duo have organised a hybrid training on fundamentals of cleft research, grants writing and publication for middle and senior researchers in the six geo-political region of the country.
Speaking during a 5-day training for 12 researchers in Abuja, Smile Train Vice-President and Regional Director for Africa, Mrs. Nkeiruka Obi, stressed the importance of research and data to development of good treatment protocols for people with cleft and good policies to drive strengthening of the health care system.
“Research is a spectrum, so we are looking at the preventive measures, treatment models/protocols, the rehabilitative aspect of cleft care given the fact that the moment a baby is discovered to have a cleft, research will pick it through prenatal diagnosis, when the child is born, when the child will undergo surgery”, Mrs Obi noted.
She further explained that as a demonstration of Smile Train commitment to research around clefts it has supported the Federal Government in developing a cleft e-registry, designed to capture comprehensive data on clefts and other surgical conditions in the country.
According to her, the cleft e-registry which happens to be the first in the African continent, would provide a good referral and surveillance system to ensure early detection and identification of clefts or other congenital conditions in children, create a robust platform to track cases of clefts especially in communities and afford families the opportunity to access adequate information on available treatment options.
She said: “This will be the very first time the government will be involved and Smile Train is supporting the government to develop the very first e-registry for clefts and surgical conditions in Africa starting from Nigeria.
“This will serve as a cleft database; it is going to work from the point a child is identified with cleft. So the registry will record it at every point of the treatment from surgery to post surgery and this will be at every community but at the moment, we are piloting it in Smile Train partner hospitals in the six geopolitical zones.”
Also speaking, a chief Consultant Paediatric Surgeon at National Hospital Abuja, Prof. Emmanuel Ameh who served as the lead facilitator at the training lamented the dearth of funds to enable the government fund research, adding that there was need to generate quality data that would better improve the quality of cleft care provision in the country.
“One problem we have in this country is that research is expensive and government does not have that kind of money to fund research. So we want to train people on how to write good research grant proposals that will capture the attention of Smile Train or other development partners to fund it because it takes some expertise to win grants.
He also explained that there are plans to scale up the training in view of the number trained in relation to the size of the country.
“The plan is to gradually roll out the training across all geopolitical zones in the coming months and years. The strategy adopted by NSOANP is that, those that have been trained will be followed up and continue to be mentored by the faculty, with support from Smile Train, to step down the training in their various locations”, Prof Ameh added.
Participants who shared there experience were unanimous that the training has sharpened their skills on research and expressed confidence that they would come up with fundable grants proposals.