Let one thousand smiles bloom! With this slogan, Assam hosted one of the country’s largest medical mission under the aegis of Operation Smile by providing life-changing cleft lip and cleft palate surgery for 967 children in a record three weeks time.
A total of 250 medical and non-medical volunteers drawn from 20 countries, including India worked together with a team of surgeons to pull off this stupendous performance.
Operation Smile makes the surgery and other cost free for poor in return to see smile on their faces.
Richard Burg, chief strategic officer of Operation Smile International, said that nearly 2000 children and adults with severe cleft lip/ cleft palate facial deformities have so far been screened during the current mission (30 January-18 February, 2010).
“This has been a rare feat considering logistics, mobilisation of patients, volunteers and infrastructural support system made available to visiting medical team,” observed Richard Vander Burg, who supervised the mission.
According to Richard V. Burg the facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate are caused by genetic disorder or acute malnutrition, and there is a direct correlation between poverty and the disease.
“We are hoping to continue this mission, through out the year 2010,” Burg said. Earlier this year, Operation Smile had entered into a public-private partnership with the State of Assam and the Tata Group to treat children with facial deformities free of cost.
Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that volunteers along with state rural health personnel traveled to remote districts to identify cleft-lip/cleft palate patients, who were then brought to the state capital for surgery.
“Government of Assamis keen to support this mission and see that the entire state is free of this disease”, said Sarma.
He added that state government invited a team of four foreign doctors to the state to carry out a year-long mission to get the state rid of facial deformities. In Assam, it is estimated that there are about 20,000 cleft cases.
Operation Smile is an international, non –profit, medical services organisation, founded by Dr. William P. Magee, a plastic surgeon, and his wife, Kathleen, a nurse and clinical social worker. In 1982, the Magees traveled to the Philippineswith a group of medical volunteers to repair children’s cleft lips and clefts palates and this lead to birth of Operation Smile.