Sohag is in Upper Egypt away from the potential tourist areas and is suffering economically. Doctors in the government or university are paid US$100-200 per month and the result is that many emigrate, for example, to richer countries in the Gulf. Despite all of their difficulties, the doctors are doing what they can to offer cleft care to their patients. This February [2024], CLEFT Chair, Brian Sommerlad, visited again to hold an operative workshop with the local team in Sohag University Hospital (pictured left).

On the first day of his visit, Brian and the Sohag team saw 36 patients with speech difficulties; either new patients or the result of unsuccessful previous palate surgery. Over the next 4 days, he and John Grant, a visiting plastic surgeon from Birmingham Alabama, operated and assisted Sohag surgeons in 9, mainly complex, operations.

Brian usually uses an operating microscope when repairing cleft palates; partly to improve his view but also to allow others to watch on a screen. In the past, the local team have improvised with a small camera taped to the eyepiece of their old microscope. However, the old microscope was not useable and a replacement was unsuitable for this kind of surgery.

The unusable operating microscope is pictured below (left and centre) in theatre. A new operating microscope would transform the operations that the Sohag are trying to carry out but they cost around £100,000 to buy new. Below right: Sohag surgeons operating.


Brian then returned to Cairo and he, Tim Goodacre, surgeon and chair of the CLEFT International Steering Committee (ISC), Debbie Sell, speech and language therapist and member of the ISC and Brijesh Patel, orthodontist at Great Ormond Street Hospital were part of the 2nd Egyptian Conference of Cleft Lip and Palate in Cairo.

CLEFT had given a grant of £8000 to support 47 surgeons, speech and language therapists and orthodontists to come to this conference from the poorer parts of Egypt but also from other countries such as Yemen, Sudan, Chad, Ghana and India. The conference is a unique opportunity for them to learn new techniques and procedures from other colleagues. Unfortunately, several surgeons from Pakistan were unable to obtain Egyptian visas so couldn't attend. It had been intended to also support surgeons from Gaza and the West Bank but the war with Israel intervened. Tim himself came to Cairo having been working with another charity in Gaza.     

The CLEFT team gave many lectures during the conference. 


Tim is pictured above left, giving his lecture to the delegates and Debbie, photographed on the right, conducted a speech and language workshop. Brij held an orthodontic workshop on the second day of the conference and pictured below left with Tim and Dr Samia, the head of the Sohag unit. 

Feedback from the delegates showed how much they appreciated CLEFT’s support and how it would improve the care that they were able to give their patients.

Banner image: Brian and the local organisers at the CLEFT reception table at the conference.