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Abstract

This study examined cleft lip and palate from the sociological point of view. It looked at the social aspects of a health issue by examining the social problems that may emanate from cleft lip/palate deformity. Questionnaires were administered in northern Nigeria to 32 patients between the ages of 10 and 60 who had been born with the defect. Oral interviews using the same set of questions were conducted with 18 patients with similar defects of cleft lip/palate deformity in southern Nigeria. The questionnaire method was preferred by the respondents in the north, whereas the respondents in the south preferred the interview method. Two case studies also were reviewed from the south as part of the methodology. The study revealed the predominance of the defect among the lowest income group within society. Because of the financial constraints involved in medical treatment, the defects were not attended to earlier in the patients’ lives until dental surgeons offered free treatment. Stigmatization and discrimination were related by the respondents as a common experience. In northern Nigeria, 98% of the patients who were interviewed were of the Muslim faith and saw the defect as the will of God, so they accepted the stigma and discrimination as their fate. In southern Nigeria, witchcraft was basically seen as the cause of the defect. The need for public awareness is emphasized for early diagnosis and early treatment of the defect to enable those affected by it to live healthy and productive lives.

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