Smiles coming to faces of Filipino kids with deformity
The crew of smile givers has returned to the country to brighten up the faces of hundreds of indigent Filipino children.
International children’s charity Operation Smile began its 33rd outreach in the Philippines over the weekend, mounting a nine-day mega mission for free oral cleft surgeries at five sites to treat up to 750 underprivileged children.
The medical mission, a continuation of an annual operation the Virginia-based charity started in the Philippines in 1982, aims to address the country’s backlog of oral cleft cases, which remain among the leading congenital defects among Filipino children.
Some 5,000 Filipino babies or one of every 500 newborns yearly are afflicted with a cleft lip or cleft palate. This figure added up to a backlog of 100,000 cases between 1982 and 2014.
Left untreated, the congenital ailment “disfigures their face, impairs their speech and… dooms them to a life of despair,” Operation Smile said in a statement.
“If they are not treated early, they are likely to lose their self worth and become recluses and outcasts,” it said.
In a joint statement, Operation Smile Inc. cofounder and president Kathleen Magee and Operation Smile Philippines president Wigbert Funtanilla said multinational teams of cleft care professionals will hold simultaneous clinics at the Sta. Ana Hospital in Manila; Ricardo Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Bacolor, Pampanga; Adventist Hospital in Cebu City; Our Lady of Mercy Specialty Hospital in Bacolod City, and Brokenshire Hospital in Davao City.
A total of 147 medical professionals from Australia, Bangladesh, China, Cyprus, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Russia, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam will join 154 of their Filipino counterparts for the outreach, organizers said.
“We are harnessing our vast international network to help countries with a high prevalence of cleft deformities deal with the problem,” Magee said.
“Local resources alone will not suffice to achieve this tall goal at the moment so we are tapping the Operation Smile international network via this annual mega mission to augment our effort,” Funtanilla said.
Kenyan anesthesiologist Dr. Joan Manyama noted the dearth of oral cleft care professionals in countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia to attend to afflicted children.
“If we don’t lend a hand to our Filipino colleagues, many of these unfortunate children will remain untreated and face a bleak future,” Wanyama said.
Filipino doctors have participated in Operation Smile missions in her country, she said.
Ahead of the mission, Operation Smile volunteers worked nonstop at their global headquarters in Virginia Beach to prepare some $1.3-million worth of medicine, medical supplies and equipment for the Philippine mission—a cargo of 8 metric tons, organizers said.
“We’ve done the drill a thousand times so it’s more or less routine for us. But knowing that this will help heal 750 indigent cleft children still gives me and my crew a lump in the throat,” Operation Smile Inc. logistics and management vice president Jesse Hines said.
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