NEW DELHI, 20 September, 2019: Smile Train India, the world’s largest cleft charity announced the milestone of supporting 600,000 cleft surgeries in India.
The occasion was marked by the launch of a national campaign, #TowardsOneMillion Smiles, that sets an ambitious target of supporting 1,000,000 safe and free cleft surgeries for underprivileged children in India in the next 10 years. Smile Train also announced a partnership with The Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) to drive early diagnosis and treatment in children with clefts, as early as the foetal stage by building a cleft medical protocol for gynaecologists across the country.
Speaking about the achievement, Susannah Schaefer, Executive Vice Chair, President & CEO, Smile Train said, “We are committed to supporting safe and free treatment for children with clefts. While we celebrate 600,000 cleft surgeries in India as a significant achievement, we are aware that this is only a milestone in our larger journey of providing comprehensive cleft care to all children born with a cleft lip and/or palate. The campaign, #TowardsOneMillion Smiles, aims at scaling our efforts and accelerating our journey to support 1,000,000 children with clefts live a healthy and fulfilling life. Our partnership with FOGSI will contribute towards this by driving early diagnosis and treatment for children with clefts.”
Cleft lip and cleft palate can have a significant impact on the health economics of countries around the world. When surgical interventions are inaccessible, facial birth differences become lifelong disabilities, exerting additional burden not only on the individual and his surroundings but on the society and the country.
Mamta Carroll, Vice President & Regional Director for Asia at Smile Train added, “While we celebrate our milestone, we should remember that none of this could have been possible without our extensive network of partner hospitals, medical practitioners, social workers, and of course, our generous donors. Each of the partners has been instrumental in every step of this journey and would like to thank all of them for their tireless dedication to the cause.”
In India, it is estimated that more than 35,000 babies are born with clefts every year. Hundreds of thousands of children with untreated clefts live in isolation, but more importantly, have difficulty eating, breathing and speaking, as their families cannot afford the life-transforming cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care they need. Smile Train India’s ‘teach a man to fish’ model focuses on training and empowering local medical professionals to provide cleft treatment in their own communities. These medical professionals then go on to train other medical professionals, creating a long-term and sustainable system.
Through its sustainable model, Smile Train India has supported more than 600,000 free cleft surgeries across India, through a network of 150+ partner hospitals.