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Operation Smile celebrates partnership with TATA

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By Lee-Yandra Paulsen

Operation Smile celebrated its long-standing corporate partnership with TATA International Africa, on Tuesday, March 7. According to Operation Smile Executive Director, Sarah Scarth, TATA has donated over half a million and this year just over R126,000 to provide free high-quality cleft lip and palate surgeries to children and adults who cannot afford medical aid.

“I was born with a cleft lip and I grew up ashamed because I looked different from the other children. I used to question why God made me like this, but I soon accepted my situation. I moved from Rwanda to South Africa and worked as a car guard at a Grocery store, there one of the customers introduced me to Operation Smile. I got in contact and received surgery. When I went back to work after the operation, people were amazed. The surgery was Life Changing for me,” said John Kabare, Operation Smile Patient Advocate.

Operation Smile Estimates that there are about 4000 people, adults and children living with unrepaired cleft lip and or palate. Many of these surgeries are provided by public hospitals around South Africa – the Western Cape Red Cross Children’s Hospital do most of the cleft lip surgeries.
“In other provinces, they don’t have a Red Cross Children’s Hospital and the hospitals are unable to provide surgery. This is because they don’t have cleft surgeons, or they lack theatre time,” said Sarah Scarth, Operation Smile Executive Director.

Cleft lip and palate are reparable but surgery has to be performed early so the child can live a normal life. According to Scarth, children can receive surgery for a cleft lip between five and six months old, while a cleft palate requires surgery between nine months to a year old. However, the problem arises when there are backlogs and the child waits for the surgery, this has a major impact on the child. A child with a cleft palate could struggle to feed and as the child grows older they tend to notice the difference between them and their peers.

According to Scarth, Operation Smile is committed to helping improve access to safe surgery as early as possible.

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