At Operation Smile, we believe everyone deserves access to safe medical care – access to safe surgery is not a privilege, but a universal human right. We envision a future where everyone can enjoy good health and live fulfilling lives as part of a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.

Yet, the world we live in is an unequal one. 

While we’ve known this to be true, health care inequities were further exposed by the pandemic, political unrest and economic chaos, especially in low- and middle-income countries around the world. Many families continue to struggle to access basic health care. All around the world, many people have little or no access to safe medical care, which leads to unnecessary suffering. 

The accessibly of resources that enable some people to live healthier lives is often entirely based on the developmental conditions of the countries where they are born, grow, live and work. Mothers and fathers should never encounter a moment where they’ll need to choose between feeding their family or using their weekly income to afford much-needed medicine for one of their children. But for many of the families we serve, this is often the harsh reality they face. 

This is not only unfair – it is preventable. 

Nine year old Aljay sits on a hospital bed next to his mother Anita. Three Operation Smile volunteers are standing next to the bed talking to them.
Nine-year-old Aljay and his mother, Anita, during a 2015 Operation Smile surgical programme to Cauayan City, Philippines. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.
Volunteer plastic surgeon Dr. Mike Earley of Ireland shares a moment with 9-month-old Tatyana during a 2004 surgical programme. Photo: Marc Ascher.

Access for all

Worldwide, it’s estimated that 143 million more surgeries are needed annually, requiring 2.2 million more surgeons, anaesthetists and obstetricians.

But for many people living in areas of the world where access to care and resources is limited or local hospitals simply lack the proper infrastructure needed to safely perform cleft surgery, their healthier and brighter futures remain out of reach for months, years or sometimes even an entire lifetime. This inequality leaves patients in the most remote parts of the world unable to receive care for their cleft conditions until much later in life. Operation Smile strongly believes all children deserve access to high-quality health care.

A fairer, healthier world

Through our work providing life-changing surgery and related care to underserved communities, Operation Smile is helping to build a fairer, healthier world. We’re committed to providing patients with health that lasts and will continue to advocate for access to quality health services in areas of the world where it is needed most.

“We must collectively work to strengthen surgical systems to be more reliable in order to create a fairer and healthier world,” said Desmond Jumbam, Operation Smile’s director of policy and advocacy. “We must engage with policy and decision makers to ensure that they prioritize health care, including surgical systems, to be able to care for their own people.”

Rwandan surgical residents observe as a volunteer cleft surgeon performs surgery during Operations Smile’s April 2019 surgical training rotation at Rwinkwavu District Hospital in Rwinkwavu, Rwanda. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.
Nguyen smiles wide before surgery during a 2015 Operation Smile Vietnam surgical program. Photo: Max-Michel Kolijn.

Close to communities

There are many families who travel far distances to get to our care. These are the stories that have inspired the creation of our education and training programs in countries like Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Building capacity and strengthening the skills of local health workers enable patients to receive surgery closer to their communities. Lack of financial resources is another barrier to care in many countries. The cost of cleft surgery can be a devastating expense, leading to overwhelming despair and hopelessness. For our patients, the care we provide is free.

But our level of commitment to patients shines brightest in the work we achieve after the surgery is over.

Care beyond surgery

Over the years, we recognised that in order to treat the whole patient, we must go beyond just one surgery. 

Through our approach to increasing accessibly and availability of ongoing services like speech therapydentistrynutrition and more, our community of medical professionals brings comprehensive care to those who need it most.

We don’t think that families should have to sacrifice their livelihoods to pay for the surgery and medical care they need to stay healthy. 

Siham, 16 years old, attends her follow-up dental appointment with volunteer orthodontist Dr. Abderrahmane Harouga at Operation Smile Morocco’s Casablanca care center. Photo: Lorenzo Monacelli.
Operation Smile Co-Founders Dr. Bill and Kathy Magee. Photo: Kristy Walker.

Bringing families hope

Founded in 1982 by Dr. Bill Magee and Kathy Magee, Operation Smile exists so a child or parent doesn’t have to feel alone – bringing families renewed hope through free cleft surgery and related care, at the same high quality you’d expect for you and your loved ones.

Seeing a family’s relief and hope firsthand after their child receives a long-awaited surgery reinforces why our work must continue.

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