A smile for Baby Maxwell

Sunday 3 December 2017

By:David Erot

Baby Maxwell before the operation

Maxwell Esinyen is 19months old and lives in Kapese village in Turkana County. He was born with a cleft lip, which caused a noticeable deformation of his upper lip. Sarah Akiru, Maxwell’s mother thought the deformation was a curse and that her son had been bewitched. Maxwell’s father blamed Sarah for the deformation and deserted the family soon after Maxwell’s birth.

Often in Turkana County, deformations and other abnormalities are seen as a curse or witchcraft on the person affected. It is commonly thought that physically disabled people bring shame to their family, and most times they are hidden from society

In July 2016, during a county led assessment and identification exercise for physically disabled children, Maxwell was identified alongside five other children. Save the Children with funding from Christian Blind Mission (CBM) supported Maxwell to travel to Kijabe County hospital for a “free” surgery.

When Save the Children visited Maxwell in November 2016, we found that his lip had healed wonderfully. Maxwell is now full of smiles and is no longer seen as a different child by members of the community. 

Story in the beneficiaries’ own words:

Sarah says: “When I gave birth to Maxwell I thought someone had bewitched my son. His father accused me of giving birth to an abnormal child and ran away. I was hopeless, confused and wondered why me? Despite all the challenges I went through, my neighbours encouraged me and did not laugh at my child. Everyone I met told me that the lip could be corrected though I wondered how, yet I am poor.”

“When Maxwell was nine months, the nurses at Lokichar dispensary sent us to Eldoret for a free operation but I did not have money for transport,” she adds

Maxwell’s mother burns and sells charcoal for a living, while his father who lives away is a small scale businesses man and occasionally supports the family. 

“My child did not look normal but I was lucky because my neighbours allowed him to play with their children. The other children accepted him. I always leave Maxwell with my neighbours when I go to burn charcoal in the bush,” says Maxwell’s Mother. 

Sarah and baby Maxwell after the operation

Michael Amolo, and orthopaedic technician at Lodwar County and Referral Hospitalsays: According to the medical records at the hospital and the assessment record from the Ministry of Health, Maxwell was born at home, but with cleft lip. He was referred to Moi teaching and Referral Hospital for a free smile operation in January 2016 but  he did not go. Later in the year, Maxwell was among five other children identified during an assessment exercise. Save the Children supported with transport and accommodation and in July 2016 the children underwent free surgery at Kijabe  hospital.”

“Now I feel happy!  I am so grateful to Save the Children for this wonderful support. God is great! Now my child can smile just like other normal children,” says Sarah.

Project information:

According to the 2009 Kenya Census, Turkana County has an estimated population of 1,011,235, out of which 0.6% are children living with disabilities. Most people in Turkana hold beliefs that disability is caused by evil spirits or curse from the gods. Children and adults with disability are stigmatised and enclosed in their homes and thus miss out on opportunities such as education and health

Save the children with funding from CBM is supporting the County teams in Turkana to conduct community based rehabilitation outreaches under the disability mainstreaming project. The main objective of the project  is to increase access of CWDs in Turkana County to interventions by government and non- governmental organizations that address their persistent exclusion from education, health, and social services. 

This project helps to facilitate physical rehabilitation and specialized treatment for children with disabilities. So far 11 children with cleft lip and cleft palate have been supported and undergone surgical treatment. The project has also supported 359 children with other forms of disabilities.