For thousands of children around the world - particularly in rural areas and developing countries - unilateral cleft lip and palate deformities, an inborn disease that leaves a child without some parts of the lips, means untold misery and ostracisation. Unfortunately, this affliction is relatively commonplace around Lake Victoria, where Geita Gold Mine is located.
Faida Matogoro, 12, was one of those born with such a deformity. His story is sorrowful: his parents permitted him to leave their house only during night time. Children of his age who met him during his night sojourn ran away from him shouting the 'ghost'. He was never enrolled into primary school as his parents were ashamed to expose him to the world. His misery ended on 14 October 2004, thanks to Geita's efforts to take him and 10 other affected children to undergo surgery by a team of doctors from Australia in an hour-long procedure at the Comprehensive Community-Based Rehabilitation Tanzania (CCBRT) Disability Hospital in Dar es Salaam. Faida can now smile for the first time.
Says Geita corporate affairs manager, Clement Msalangi, "The outcome of the operations was pretty amazing. We were really proud to be associated with the first ever 'operation smile' carried out by an Australian doctors' surgical mission to Tanzania. The company is committed towards seeing that such a mission is repeated regularly in the future.
"Geita was involved in the surgical mission right from the start of fundraising conducted in Perth, Australia when the Australian team first visited the Tanzanian Consulate in that country. The Consul, Mr. Didier Murcia, himself contacted Geita Gold Mine management and since then, we fully supported the initiative."
Doctors from the mine visited surrounding villages where unilateral cleft lip and palate deformities are prevalent. Eleven children were identified as needing urgent plastic surgery - seven girls and four boys. Many other children with similar problems could not be reached in time for this first mission.
The company funded the transportation of the 11 patients - two of whom had to be accompanied by their mothers - and two nurses (one from the Geita District Hospital and the other from the
The beneficiaries from Geita include an 11-month child Rahel Paulo, five-year old Edna Moshi, and six-year olds Regina Selemani and Abel Moshi. Others are Masumbuko Manyandizi (12), Faida Matogoro (12), Nyaswa Mashauri (12), Levina Richard (14), Alice Joachim (19), Hoja Kazalabanu (20) and Chausiku William (30).
Geita managing director, Peter Turner, extended the company's heartfelt thanks to the eight-person mission from Australia and to the two voluntary bodies of plastic surgeons (Interplast - Australia and Operation Rainbow - Australia) for choosing Tanzania as their first destination in Africa. Those who made up the mission were Dr. Tony Connel (head of the team), Dr. Anthony Baker, Dr. Ross Boulter, Dr. Tim Mann and four nurses, Wilma Dunne, Michelle Carthew, Margaret Twine and Natasha Haines.