In partnership with Devex, cleft organization Smile Train took the virtual stage during the 76th annual United Nations General Assembly to shine a light on the increased burden of global malnutrition due to COVID-19 and issue a call to action to continue protecting the health of mothers and babies around the world.

In an innovation panel event on Wednesday, September 22, Dr. Asaf Bitton, health systems innovation leader and Executive Director of Ariadne Labs, and Miriam Nabie, Clinical Nutritionist for Icfem Mission Dreamland Hospital and Smile Train Regional Nutrition Advisor, joined Smile Train President & CEO Susannah Schaefer to share insights and conversation on the importance of improved feeding practices and the benefits of integrating nutritional programming in healthcare, particularly in low and middle-income communities that lack access to experienced birthing teams and nutrition support programs, a media release from Smile Train explains.

Through 2026, Smile Train has pledged to further increase nutrition programs and amplify awareness campaigns, partnerships, training, and advocacy to meet the following goals:

  • Offer cleft-specific feeding counseling to more than 1 million mothers and children
  • Advance 40,000 education opportunities on cleft feeding and nutrition
  • Empower more than 1,000 partner hospitals across more than 70 countries to offer nutrition services to every mother and child pair affected by cleft
  • Work with more than 250 partner hospitals in an organized network to provide advanced nutritional care for malnourished children affected by cleft
  • Reduce the number of stunted children undergoing cleft surgery by 40% to further accelerate goals set forth by the World Health Organization

A second panel on Thursday, September 23, featured Grainne Maloney, Senior Nutrition Advisor of Early Childhood Nutrition at UNICEF, Dr. Meera Shekar, the Global Lead on Nutrition and Population at the World Bank in conjunction with Dr. Felicity Vidya Mehendale, Smile Train Medical Advisory Board Member and Co-Chair of Smile Train’s Research and Innovation Council, to explore needed next steps to gain back lost ground due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and accelerate progress on nutrition outcomes.

“In order to achieve our vision of a world where every person has access to safe, high-quality comprehensive cleft care and is able to live a full and healthy life, it is critical for a scale-up of inclusive nutrition programs to protect and best support mothers and babies deeply affected by clefts. We’re thrilled to continue our work alongside an incredible global network of partners and medical professionals to seize the opportunity for change and secure the future of children over the course of the next five years.”

— Smile Train President & CEO Susannah Schaefer

Smile Train’s sustainable model empowers local medical professionals with training, funding, and resources to provide free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children globally. For over 20 years, Smile Train has supported safe and quality cleft care for more than 1.5 million children and will continue to do so until every child in need with a cleft has access to the care they deserve.

[Source(s): Smile Train, PR Newswire]

Related Content:
Smile Train Creates Cleft Leadership Centers
Smile Train Launches Mobile Version of Virtual Surgery Simulator
Smile Train and Lifebox Partner on Safer Surgery and Anesthesia Initiative in Low-Resource Countries
Smile Train Partners with Kids Operating Room to Help Increase Access to Care Across Africa