India: Smile Train Gives Hope for 35,000 Children with Cleft Palates

Free cleft surgery, cleft treatment in India by Smile Train

Every year 35,000 children in India are born with clefts. Without corrective surgery, these children are condemned to a lifetime of isolation and suffering. Many are even abandoned or killed at birth.

The tragedy is that a cleft can be completely corrected with a simple surgical procedure that could take as little as 45 minutes and cost as little as Rs.12,000.

Smile Train is the world’s largest cleft lip and palate charity. Our overriding goal is make safe and quality treatment of cleft lip and palate accessible to the millions who cannot afford it.

There are an estimated 10 lakh untreated cases of clefts in India. The goal of Smile Train is to continue providing cleft surgeries across India – on an ever increasing scale – until we have completely eradicated the problem of clefts.

Our Vision & Mission

Every child born with a cleft anywhere in the world has the opportunity to live a full, productive life.

Clefts are a major problem in developing countries where there are millions of children who are suffering with unrepaired clefts. Most cannot eat or speak properly. Aren’t allowed to attend school or hold a job. And face very difficult lives filled with shame and isolation, pain and heartache. Their clefts usually go untreated because they are poor – too poor to pay for a simple surgery that has been around for decades.

Cleft Births

Every year, 35,000 babies in India are born with clefts. More than 50% of them do not receive any treatment because they do not know a cleft can be fully corrected – and totally free, or are too poor to travel to a hospital. By one estimate there are over 10 lakh cases of untreated clefts in India.

A cleft occurs when certain midline soft tissues do not fuse together during the development of the fetus. Clefts can involve the lip, the roof of the mouth, and the soft tissue in the back of the mouth.

Clefts are the number one birth defect in many developing countries.

Cleft Lips

Cleft lips come in a broad range of severity and disfigurement. Some can be as mild as a slight notch in the red part of the upper lip to a severe cleft lip involving total separation of the lip all the way up into the nose. Cleft lips can involve a single cleft (which is known as a unilateral cleft), or a double cleft (bilateral cleft). They invariably occur on the upper lip.

Cleft Palates

Cleft palates can range from a tiny little hole in back of the roof of the mouth to a major cavity that runs all the way from the front to the back of the mouth.


A Simple Surgery

Most clefts can be completely corrected with a simple surgical procedure that could take as little as 45 minutes. There are few procedures that can change a child’s life as quickly and as dramatically as cleft surgery.

Smile Train not only makes quality cleft lip and palate surgery available across India, it provides it completely free of cost to everyone who needs it.

Since 2000, Smile Train has sponsored over 300,000 safe, quality surgeries across India, totally free of cost.

This year we will provide free cleft surgery and related treatment for more than 50,000 children in India.

Mohandas Gandhi

“Gentleness, self-sacrifice and generosity are the exclusive possession of no one race or religion.”


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