Operation Smile



Did you know:-

  • Every three minutes, a child is born with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate.
  • Approximately 1 in 700 children worldwide is born with cleft lip, cleft palate or both.
  • A baby born with a cleft has twice the odds of dying before celebrating their first birthday.

Who we are:-

Operation Smile is the largest volunteer-based medical charity.

Since inception, in 1982, Operation Smile has provided over 200 000 free surgeries to children with cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities. It currently has over 5,400 medical volunteers from over 80 countries and is the leading researcher into the causes of cleft lip and cleft palate, and its prevention, treatment and surgical outcomes.

Operation Smile South Africa (OSSA) was founded in 2006 as the regional hub for Southern and Central Africa and has already facilitated more than 25,000 free procedures. OSSA conducts Medical Missions and Educational Programmes in DRC,Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa and Swaziland.

What is a cleft lip/ cleft palate?

The definition of a cleft lip is a visible separation in the skin of their top lip. This space can be a small hole, or it can be a significant opening that extends from the base of the baby’s nose all the way down to her top jaw and gums. Between eight and twelve weeks of pregnancy, the baby’s mouth begins to form.
When the development is incomplete, the baby has what is known as a cleft palate.

  • It is estimated that two billion people, or one-quarter of the world’s population, lack access to basic surgical care.
  • Children with cleft conditions may have difficulty eating, breast feeding, speaking, hearing or breathing properly.
  • There is a shortage of trained surgeons to handle the growing need and backlog of cleft cases.



  • Operation Smile’s Centers in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East provide year-round treatment, as well as nutrition education, dental care, speech therapy and mental health care.
  • Surgery to repair cleft lip is more cost effective than many public health interventions (like treatment for HIV/AIDS.)
  • Through our partnership with the American Heart Association Operation Smile is one of the largest providers of life saving courses (Basic Life Support – BLS, Pediatric Advanced Life Support – PALS and Advanced Cardiac Life Support – ACLS) to resource poor environments.
  • Operation Smile is a pioneer in advocating for the importance of safe surgery in resource poor environments where the lack of safe surgery accounts for 11% of all death and disability.
  • Surgeries performed in-country by local volunteers during medical missions, or at care centers, account for 67% of the procedures being performed by Operation Smile.
  • Operation Smile increases overall surgical capacity and cleft treatment in communities where we work by providing education and training to health care workers in our program countries. We demonstrate industry leading clinical management practices and operate to the highest possible standards of care.

2012-2013 Statistics:-

  • In 2013, Operation Smile programs provided 21,474 surgical procedures to 17,143 patients – up by 15% from 2012.
  • In 2013, Operation Smile saw 22,389 children who returned for post-operative evaluations. By strengthening post- op programs, more patients are receiving necessary follow-up care and by developing better systems for processing and analyzing post-op data, Operation Smile is better able to measure the quality of surgical care, not only the quantity.
  • In 2013, 3,726 medical volunteers from 63 countries volunteered with Operation Smile to provide free care to our patients.
  • In 2013, 67% of surgeries were performed in-country by local volunteers during medical missions, or at centers.
  • Operation Smile currently has 37 centers in 20 countries. Seven of them opened this past fiscal year – 5 in India, 1 in the Philippines, and 1 in Morocco.
  • In 2013, Operation Smile expanded into 34 new medical sites including Malawi, Mozambique (Coming June 2014) and Mongolia.
  • In 2013, Operation Smile conducted 179 medical missions across 132 sites in 37 countries.
  • In 2013, Operation Smile packed and shipped 360 pallets of cargo worth more than $6 million dollars for 50 medical missions.
  • In 2013, 2028 people received life support training in 25 countries