Smile Train, a global cleft organization, has partnered with the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) to engage cleft professionals from East Africa. The professionals will be drawn from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia in a training on Cleft Research Methodology.

The training seeks to address a great need for quality research works on cleft, a common facial birth difference in which patients experience difficulty in breathing, eating and speaking. Many of the children who grow up with an untreated cleft experience social stigma, live in shame and isolation, do not attend school and the ripple effect is that they fail to contribute to the economy. Causes of cleft remain unknown but risk factors include environmental factors, diet of the mother during pregnancy and genetics.

Throughout the training, Smile Train will be supporting the entire 10-week mentorship program with the aim of establishing a culture that supports the development of high-quality research and innovation activities. This is in a bid to inform cleft care programs across Africa and the world at large.

At the end of the course, participants are expected to have formulated a research problem, developed a good research question, and drafted a cleft-related proposal for funding consideration by Smile Train. At the end of the training, 7 to 10 proposals will be selected for funding, with research leads receiving additional mentorship from KEMRI towards project implementation and manuscript writing.

Speaking during the opening ceremony of East Africa’s inaugural 2-week research methodology course, Smile Train Program Director East Africa Jane Ngige Muturi noted, “In Africa, there is lack of substantive data on areas such as cleft prevalence, statistics of skilled personnel and the nutritional needs of children with cleft. This lack of data makes it difficult to present a case for support by the government in prioritizing neglected surgical conditions. It is our hope that bringing our partners to the table to boost their capacity in research will support their countries’ Ministries of Health in formulating better policies in addressing surgical services, and pediatric surgical and comprehensive care.”

KEMRI is ranked the top health research institution in Africa in terms of health research output, by the authoritative global information analytics company, Scimago Lab. Smile Train currently partners with more than 245 hospitals and over 255 local medical partners in 40 countries throughout Africa to provide free cleft surgeries and comprehensive cleft care all year round.