Agartala, June 23 (IANS) Its personnel guard the borders in rain and shine. Now the Border Security Force (BSF) is touching the lives of people in the east and northeast in a rather unique way - by teaming with the Indian branch of a US-based medical NGO to treat children with cleft lips and palates to bring smiles to them.
The surgeries, which are performed free, would normally cost Rs.40,000 to Rs.50,000.
"Children with cleft lips and palates would be treated in the medical camps being organised along India's international borders where our troopers have been posted," BSF chief public relations officer B.S. Rawat told IANS.
"The mission to treat children with cleft lips and palates was launched by BSF Director General Subhash Joshi in January in Kolkata. Medical camps would now be organised along the borders."
A day-long camp was organised Friday at the BSF's Composite Hospital at the Tripura frontier headquarters at Salbagan, near here. Nine cases were surgically rectified free of cost by a medical team from Kolkata, giving the children a new lease of life and a smile on their faces.
BSF Additional Director General B.D. Sharma inaugurated the camp, organised by the BSF Wives Welfare Association, NGO Smile Train and the Rotary Club of Kolkata.
"Prior to Friday's camp, BSF teams reached the remotest corners of Tripura's border with Bangladesh to identify cases and brought them to Agartala for screening," Rawat said.
"Once the BSF identifies cases and moves them to surgical points, a team from the Bhagwan Mahavir Cleft Foundation, led by Kamlesh Kothari, takes over. While a similar surgery would cost between Rs.40,000 to Rs.50,000, it is totally free under this project," Rawat added.
Funds for organising surgical and medical camps are being provided by Smile Train and the Rotary Club.
Headquartered in New York, Smile Train is an international charity helping children with cleft lips. Founded in 2000 by Brian Mullaney and Charles B. Wang, it has performed more than 300,000 cleft surgeries in 80 of the world's poorest countries.
Cleft lip and palate is a birth-defect which can derail the victim's life due to social stigmas.
Eastern India has over 100,000 cases of people with cleft lip and palate.
The next phase of surgeries are planned in Kolkata where cases from the border villages of North 24-Parganas in West Bengal will be operated on.
Northeast India has the highest number of cases of cleft lips and palates. According to experts, about 30,000 children in India are born with cleft lips and palates every year and less than 50 percent of them go for treatment.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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