Smile Train India — the country’s largest cleft charity — has successfully completed over 11,000 free cleft, lip and palate reconstructive surgeries across the North East through a network of seven partner hospitals in 15 years.

The partner hospitals are Institute of Women and Child Health, Guwahati; Srishti Hospital, Dibrugarh; Mediland Hospital, Silchar; NIBA Hospital, Naharlagun; Greenwood Hospital, Aizawl; Shija Hospital, Imphal and Woodland Hospital, Shillong).

Smile Train India and its partner hospitals organised a cleft week in these States from April 17 to 24, during which hospitals undertook extensive outreach to create awareness that cleft lip and palate can be treated by surgery.

“Smile Train cleft centres provide free cleft surgeries to cleft lip and palate patients 365 days in a year. The objective of the programme is to sensitise the community about clefts and identify patients with untreated clefts. It is estimated that in India, 35,000 children are born with clefts every year and there is a backlog of over a million cases. Smile Train’s cleft programme in India is the world’s largest,” Renu Mehta, Country Director of Smile Train India, said.

The Cleft Week was kicked off at Shija Hospital (Imphal) by the partner surgeons, including Dr Kh Bonney (Project Director of Smile Train Shija Cleft Project). Awareness programmes for members from Border Security Force (BSF) and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan were also organised at the hospital. Greenwood Hospital, (Aizawl) organised training for Asha workers to help them identify patients and direct them to the nearest Smile Train Hospital. Awareness camps for schoolchildren were also set up by the partner hospitals to sensitise children about the cause.

The Institute for Women and Child Health (Guwahati) organised a refresher training for nurses. In addition, the partner hospitals also undertook rallies and awareness campaigns to generate renewed awareness about clefts.

Congratulating the partner surgeons on this initiative, Mehta said, “Initiatives like these help spread awareness and also ensure integration of children with cleft problem with mainstream society. It is the enthusiasm of our partners and former patients in helping spread a smile, that enable us to take up such initiatives to spread awareness to help heal clefts. We have provided over 11,000 free cleft lip and palate surgeries in the States of North East India over the last 15 years and cleft patients can walk into any Smile Train partner hospital 365 days in a year for any cleft- related query.”

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