Home Columnists SMILE TRAIN: Spreading smiles… all across Africa!

SMILE TRAIN: Spreading smiles… all across Africa!

At Smile Train, we have a singular focus – to empower local medical professionals, across the world, with education and training so they can provide 100% free cleft repair surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children in their communities.

As a result of this focus, and the work we’ve been supporting around the world over the past two decades, we often have a reason to share a celebratory smile. However, this October we had even more of a reason, as we reached our 100k cleft surgery ‘smilestone’ in Africa!

100K smile-recipient in Africa – Zena

Smile Train has supported cleft programmes in Africa since 2002, and over this period we’ve harnessed relationships with 244 local partner hospitals.

We are incredibly proud of reaching this important ‘smilestone’. The amount of dedication, time, and effort that’s been put in by our local medical partners and staff at our local partner hospitals to get to this point has been monumental.

Many people don’t realise that there has been a huge network of individuals involved to successfully carry out comprehensive cleft care on the 100k patient cases in Africa to date. In addition to working with local surgeons, we’ve also funded training programmes for local nurses, anaesthetists, speech therapists and orthodontists on all elements of comprehensive cleft care.

As a result of this holistic approach, we can now say that we’ve impacted 100,000 new smiles for children living with clefts across the continent and had a life-changing impact on families across 33 African nations.

It is often wrongly assumed that cleft lip and cleft palate are purely cosmetic concerns. However, we know that for many children with untreated clefts in Africa, this is certainly not the case. When left untreated, clefts can lead to serious health and survival issues – including causing difficulties with breathing, eating, and speaking; in addition to social stigma. For these reasons, it is important that our work continues throughout Africa and the rest of the world to address cleft as a serious global health issue.

Looking ahead, we celebrate 100,000 smiles and will continue our vital work in Africa – with the aim of changing the lives of every child born across the region with a cleft, one smile at a time, as a result of our sustainable, scalable health model.