Smile Train, an international cleft charity, celebrated the completion of 500,000 free cleft lip and palate reconstructive surgeries for children born with clefts within 18 years of starting its India programme. Smile Train also launched the Train in India initiative under which medical professionals from other countries in South Asia will be trained in cleft care at Smile Train India’s partner hospitals. In addition, Bajaj Finserv Ltd. and subsidiary companies, reaffirmed their ongoing CSR commitment by announcing support for a further 20,000 free cleft treatments in partnership with Smile Train India.
Smile Train’s Global Goodwill Ambassador, Ms. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan said, “I am proud to be associated with Smile Train for all these years and extend my heartfelt congratulations to them for changing the lives of half a million cleft patients in India. Supporting this work of Smile Train through The Aishwarya Rai Foundation has been my small personal contribution in the larger picture of honourable, effective change in the lives of cleft patients. I look forward to continuing this journey of giving new reasons to smile to children born with clefts.”
Sanjiv Bajaj, Managing Director of Bajaj Finserv Ltd., Smile Train India’s largest corporate supporter, stated “I compliment Smile Train India’s team and its network hospitals for completion of 500,000 cleft reconstruction surgeries. Bajaj Group has always believed that every Indian should have access to quality education and healthcare. In Smile Train we have found a partner which shares our belief. We have, since 2014, supported 34,000 cleft reconstruction surgeries and I am happy to announce support for another 20,000 surgeries over the next two years. I hope Bajaj Finserv and Smile Train can together provide a bright future full of opportunities and joy to these children and their families.”
“Smile Train India is the largest cleft program in the world,” Susannah Schaefer CEO, Smile Train, said. “Since the beginning, we have invested in empowering Indian medical professionals through financial support, training, and education. This has been possible because of the continuous support of our corporate donors, selfless dedication of partner doctors and medical fraternity, and the generosity of our individual donors. This milestone of 500,000 cleft surgeries in just 18 years is dedicated to their contribution.”
Talking about the Train in India initiative to establish India as an international training hub for cleft care, Mamta Carroll, Vice President and Regional Director, Smile Train, South Asia, explained, “With Train in India, we will focus on building capacity of medical professionals from South Asian countries at Smile Train India’s Training Centers. We will identify gaps in training requirements in cleft care in our neighbouring countries of Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, and host medical professionals from these countries for tailor-made training.”
Smile Train India’s other corporate partners Bajaj Allianz General Insurance, Himalaya Drug Company, Mankind Pharma Ltd. and The Hans Foundation joined 100 partner doctors, former patients and their families, including Oscar®-winning documentary- Smile Pinki’s protagonist, Pinki Sonkar at the event.
Smile Train is the world’s largest cleft charity that empowers local medical professionals to provide free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children globally. In just 18 years, Smile Train India has achieved this 500,000 surgery milestone in India through a strong partner network of over 300 doctors at over 160 hospitals in more than one hundred cities across India.
Smile Train India is partnered with various state governments under the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram of the National Health mission. In hard-to-reach border areas and insurgency hit areas, Border Security Force (BSF) Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) reach out to cleft patients and, where needed, transport them to and from the nearest Smile Train partner hospital.
Cleft Facts: India
– Every year, 35,000 children in India are born with clefts
– Less than 50% of children born with clefts get treatment due to lack of education about clefts and poverty
– Children with untreated clefts have difficulty in breathing, eating, and speaking
– In India, hundreds of thousands of children with untreated clefts live a life of isolation
– They often do not attend school and have difficulty finding jobs when they grow up
– Cleft surgery can take as little as 45 minutes
Cleft surgery gives these children a second chance at life. They have the opportunity to go to school, get a job and become contributing members of society.
According to an independent study – Economic Valuation of the Global Burden of Cleft Disease Averted by a Large Cleft Charity – published in the British Medical Journal Global Health, as cleft repair can cost as little as $250, the return on investment of cleft surgery in a developing country can be as much as 168 times, or $42,000, which is an extraordinary value of return.