Out of the 3,400 babies born in Kenya every day, three are diagnosed with a birth defect that affects their faces, experts have said.
The condition, known as cleft lip and palate, occurs early in pregnancy and causes facial deformities.
A cleft lip is a physical split or separation of the two sides of the upper lip and appears as a narrow opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip while a cleft palate is a split or opening in the roof of the mouth.
This common birth defect prevents babies from feeding and breathing normally.
For this reason, Smile Train and Miss World Kenya have partnered to create awareness of the little known condition affecting more than 1,300 babies annually.
Speaking Tuesday in Nairobi, the African regional director for Smile Train Esther Njoroge said that the non-profit organisation has conducted 6, 712 cleft repairs in the country.
“Since we started off eight years ago, we have performed surgeries on over 70,000 patients in Africa, with almost ten per cent of then coming from Kenya,” said Dr Njoroge.
Smile Train has partnered with 13 hospitals in several counties as well as surgeons who work on voluntary basis to create access to treatment across the country.
Dr Njoroge said that the early treatment of the condition was necessary to reduce infant deaths.
Due to lack of awareness on the availability and affordability of treatment, many parents do not seek medical care for their babies.
“Many people assume that the corrective surgery is expensive and therefore shy away from going to hospital,” said Dr Njoroge.
“We have heard of cases of children born with cleft lip and palate being hidden from society or thrown away because the parents are ashamed of the deformity.”
On her part, Miss World Kenya franchise holder Terry Mungai affirmed the organisation’s commitment to the cause under the banner “Beauty with a Purpose.”
“Miss World Kenya’ Beauty with a Purpose intends to transform such lives and offer positive impact by rallying people to access the treatment,” said Ms Mungai.
The event was planned ahead of a four-day visit by the Miss World 2015 winner Mireia Lalaguna Royo.
Smile Train has been in Kenya since 2002, with active programs since 2008.