Our chairman, Brian Sommerlad, has visited Sulaimania in the Kurdish region of Iraq every year (except for one at the height of the Covid pandemic) since 2012. He works with the local team in the Emergency Hospital, a hospital built by Italians but showing signs of its age.

Even the tree in the Emergency Hospital is showing its age.

He has just returned from a week in Sulaimaniyah where he attended the opening of a new cleft clinic in the Emergency Hospital. This is probably the first multi-disciplinary cleft clinic in Iraq. This has been funded by the WHO. Cleft care in Sulaimaniyah has been greatly supported by a Kurdish charity – Kurdistan Save the Children. CLEFT has also helped.

There is a dental room where the dental and maxillo-facial specialists can treat patients.


The new dental room

...and a clinic room for speech therapy, multi- disciplinary cleft clinics and with facilities for investigation of the many children with palates which are not working (nasendoscopies and, hopefully in the future, a C-arm for lateral videofluoroscopies).


The new cleft clinic room

The week was the ninth workshop of the centre and specialists from several cities in Iraq attended. During the week, Brian and the team saw 90 patients and together they carried out 10 demonstration operations.

"A Tale of two Adams"

On the last day, two boys called Adam had their operations.

5 year-old Adam had already had 3 operations for his cleft palate but it was still not functioning adequately and his speech was still very nasal. Hopefully the re-repair of the palate will make a big difference to Adam. Unfortunately there are many children and adults in Iraq who have had up to 10 operations for cleft lip and palate but who still have holes in the palate and unintelligible speech.

5 year-old Adam after the operation with mother and father (in traditional Kurdish clothes).


10 month-old Adam had a cleft of lip and palate.

10 month-old Adam

Because of his age, and the fact that the cleft was not wide, both the lip and the palate were repaired at the same operation. Hopefully with improvements in primary surgery, he will not require further surgery to his palate.

Little Adam with mother and grandmother soon after the operation

CLEFT has helped to ensure the long-term success of this cleft centre by funding 3 young surgeons to attend the international cleft congress in Edinburgh in July. They are committed to cleft care, working with Dr Luqman and the other more senior surgeons.

Thanks to a very generous donor, we hope to announce a major new development in the Sulaimania project in the near future.

We believe that this centre will be a model for Iraq which is gradually recovering from 50 years of war and conflict.