Descriptive Epidemiology of Orofacial Clefts in Ethiopia

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The prevalence of birth defects including orofacial clefts (OFC) in Ethiopia is not known and there is no established birth defects registration system.


To investigate the prevalence and incidence of OFC in Ethiopia.


Retrospective hospital-based descriptive study.


The authors obtained data from the Smile Train database on Ethiopian patients with OFC who underwent surgical treatment from June 2007 to December 2013 at 31 hospitals distributed throughout the country. Data related to live births in Ethiopia during the mentioned period were obtained from the Federal Ministry of Health database for estimates of the incidence and prevalence rates.


The total number of life births during the study period was 18,811,316. During this same period, 18,073 cleft patients approximately ranging from 1 to 75 years old were examined and treated at the hospitals mentioned earlier. The incidence rate estimated from the total number of affected children during the study period (N = 8232) is 0.44/1000 live births. The prevalence rate is 0.20/1000 and this was estimated using the number of total population in 2013 (N = 88,703,914). There is a significant difference in frequency between bilateral clefts of the lip and/or palate (CLP) (26.9%) versus unilateral CLP (73.1%) (P < 0.0001). There is also a significant difference in frequency between bilateral cleft lips only (15.4%) versus unilateral cleft lip only (84.6%), P < 0001.


It is obvious that the findings in this study cannot be representative of the true picture but provides a previously unavailable national estimate of incidence and prevalence of OFC in Ethiopia. It can also be used as comparison for future community-based studies.

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