Operation Smile for Children with Cleft Palates Returns to Morocco- Article written by Shaquile Goff

Authored by:
Oumaima Farik

Families have been lining up in Tangier at Operation Smile’s temporary center, hoping to get surgery for their children this week.

Rabat – Global non-profit Operation Smile, which works with children with cleft palates officially launched another mission in Morocco on Friday. The organization held an opening ceremony at Al Kortobi Hospital in the city of Tangier, according to local news.

Operation Smile is an initiative to provide repairs for cleft lips and palates for impoverished children globally. According to Operation Smile’s website, every three minutes a child is born with a cleft lip or congenitally-damaged palate.

Founded in 1982 by Dr William P. Magee, Jr. and his wife Kathy Magee, Operation Smile has expanded from 18 volunteers to an international network of plastic surgeons, medical experts, and non-medical volunteers.

In Morocco alone, the operation has provided free surgery to over 7,500 people and free dental care to over 5,600. The organization also has 250 Moroccan doctors in its global network.

The first trip Magee’s team made to Morocco was in 1998, and they have operated in 36 different cities around the country over the past twenty years.

In 2008, they established a permanent presence in Morocco by opening a care center in Casablanca. The center provides care year-round to hundreds of patients.

Roughly 1 in every 500-700 newborns worldwide are born with a cleft lip or palate, according to the World Health Organization. Although the problem is congenital, those affected grow up having issues with swallowing, talking, as well as self-esteem. The problem is more prevalent among economically disadvantaged families as well, because they usually cannot afford the expensive plastic surgery that is needed.

The mission in Tangier has selected 160 children to undergo operations from December 3 to December 7. The surgeries will be led by a mixed team of eight Moroccan and international specialists. Lines of people waited outside of the hospital for a chance to bring their children in to be operated on, as long-standing issues in Moroccan healthcare are preventing these people from being able to afford it on their own.

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