Batouli’s only memory of her time with a cleft lip will be this photograph.

Better Days for Batouli

Habibatou and Mamadou had never experienced this much joy and sorrow at the same time. The birth of their first baby was a precious gift that made their hearts burst with joy. Their daughter was perfect in every way - with one troubling exception!

Batouli is born with a malformation that split her lip, causing one side to grow up toward her nose. The parents had never before seen anything like this, and they did not know what this meant for their daughter. However, they did know that deformity meant hardship. Many people would think their daughter was a bad omen…

Mamadou’s first wife had already laughed spitefully at the news of the baby’s condition. Other torments were sure to follow. Could Mamadou and Habibatou keep their child hidden like so many did when there was an obvious physical problem?
Mamadou bravely decided to break from tradition and speak out about his daughter’s condition. He asked the people in the village if they had seen an upper lip like his daughter’s. No one, not even the elders, had ever seen anything like this.

When Mamadou called his brother Musa, who lived in the capital city, with news about the baby’s problem, Musa’s response was surprising. „Mamadou, do not worry. There is a ship coming with doctors who help babies like yours. They do surgeries, for free, to correct this problem.“ The good news gave the family hope.
Mamadou arranged for his wife Habibatou and his baby to stay at his brother’s home in Conakry to find out more about this hospital ship. Habibatou recalls the experience. „We did not know for certain when this ship would come or if the doctors could help. I was afraid, but I had faith for the sake of my daughter.“

The hospital near Musa’s home confirmed that Mercy Ships would soon be screening patients for surgeries. Habibatou spoke softly, „I was grateful to learn from the hospital nurse that my baby’s condition was called a cleft lip and that the people on the ship did these surgeries. She said that Mercy Ships would take very good care of her and that Musa was right - they did not charge any money for doing the operation!“ By noon on screening day, Habibatou was clutching a Mercy Ships surgery appointment card for Batouli.

On the day of Batouli’s surgery, Habibatou impatiently waited for the outcome of the operation. Within a few hours, she was holding her daughter in her arms. Habibatou spoke on behalf of her family, saying, „We are so grateful that our break from tradition brought us to Mercy Ships. This break has changed our dear Batouli’s life.“

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