Finally, there is a ray hope for poor girls mauled and defaced in man-animal conflict to lead a normal life and for female babies who are being abandoned by parents for having congenital cleft deformities.
The state health department in collaboration with a non-profit NGO, Interplast-Germany, has started first ever camp in Srinagar’s Jawahar Lal Nehru Memorial (JKNM) hospital to provide free reconstructive and plastic surgeries for poor patients, irrespective of age or gender.
“We have registered around 140 cases, which include cleft deformities, burn injuries and other functional disabilities for the month-long camp,” said Ulrich Balke, 62-year-old coordinator of Interplast-Germany.
The NGO, which has worked in South America, Africa and Asia countries in the past 30 years, works on a unique model to provide free surgeries.
“We engage renowned Germany-based plastic surgeons, who devout their holiday time to perform these surgeries,” said Balke.
The NGO claims to have performed around 10,000 surgeries in India in the past 20 years and around 70,000 across the globe.
“This is our first camp in Kashmir. Last year, we performed surgeries in Ladakh, where I went from one village to another to identify cases,” said Balke.
A team of five doctors, headed by world-renowned plastic surgeon Dr Andreas Schmidt along with his wife, was scheduled to perform six surgeries on Tuesday.
“This camp is only meant for those who cannot otherwise afford such surgeries,” clarified Balke.
The plastic surgeries in India cost lakhs of rupees, depending on severity of the problem.
The state health department to identify poor patients in Kashmir had issued notices to all district hospitals.
The valley is grappling with the increasing cases of babies, particularly female, being abandoned with cleft deformities. In the last eight month, two such cases were registered in Srinagar city.
“We have several cases where babies with cleft deformities were abandoned near hospitals,” said director health services, Kashmir, Dr Saleem-ur-Rehman.
Cleft deformity continues to be a taboo in Kashmir. This deformity, where lips and palette are wide open, leads to speech problem as the patients grow up, resulting in their isolation and psychological problems.
The best time to rectify this deformity is between the age group of one-and-a-half years old to two-and-a-half years old. Once the patient develops speech capabilities, it becomes difficult for doctors to change it.
“We want these babies to be identified in advance. All these babies can lead a normal life with natural speech capabilities if intervened at the right time,” said Balke.
"We are planning to run an awareness programmes in districts to identify cases at an early stage for the next camp," said Dr Saleem-ur-Rehman.
On day one of the camp on Tuesday, the surgeons operated upon patients like 12-year-old Adhfar Fayaz, a resident of Srinagar’s Batamaloo area.
“She was bitten by dogs in the face seven years ago, deforming her. The plastic surgery will help her to live a normal life and get married,” said Fayaz Ahmad, the patient’s father.
There is increasing number of the man-animal conflict in Kashmir. Hundreds of locals were bitten in Kashmir valley this year, besides the dozens of cases where leopards and bears attacks civilians in rural pockets during the winters.