Operation Smile

Operation Smile South Africa: making the world a better place one smile at a time.


South Africa – Think of all the things that can be achieved in just 45 minutes. A quick Google search lists 30 things right off the bat, including a yoga class, a power nap, a spa treatment, or a good old-fashioned walk in the park.

It also takes medical volunteers at Operation Smile South Africa (OSSA) as little as 45 minutes to help put a smile on someone’s proverbial dial.

OSSA is a non-profit medical service organisation that provides free cleft lip and cleft palate reconstructive surgery and has – since 2006 – seen its medical volunteers provide over 6,000 free surgeries to children and adults throughout Southern and Central Africa. Every three minutes, a child is born somewhere in the world with a cleft lip or cleft palate; about one in 500-750 births. It takes medical volunteers at OSSA as little as 45 minutes to repair a child’s cleft condition, giving them a smile and the chance to live a happy and healthy life.

The organisation believes that access to safe, effective and timeous surgical care is a basic human right and that the inability to obtain surgical treatment for cleft conditions impacts lifelong health and mortality rates among children in South Africa and beyond. Those living with cleft conditions often suffer negative and stigmatic societal treatment resulting in emotional, social and economic costs, which inadvertently extend to their families and communities.

OSSA can address this need directly by deploying missions across multiple sites in and around South Africa. And using a referral programme, the organisation identifies and refers patients to one of the nine existing cleft centres nationwide. The missions also supplement the national healthcare system by delivering much-needed care to the two provinces in South African that do not yet have established cleft centres.

“In 2019, OSSA together with the National Department of Health will be embarking on a pilot programme at the Witbank Provincial Hospital to assist in expanding the facility’s surgical services and offering non-surgical education and training programmes that cover Basic Life Support (BLS), Paediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) and Helping Babies Breathe (HBB),” explains Lauren Bright, Country Manager for Operation Smile South Africa.

The organisation’s involvement further extends into offering patients post-surgery support such as access to speech pathology experts, as well as dental and feeding and nutrition programmes.

“Surgery only repairs the superficial,” adds Bright.

“Rehabilitation post-surgery is vital for patients to re-establish their lives within their communities.”

“The word ‘surgery’ traditionally carries a lot of weight; most-associated with exorbitant hospital and doctors’ costs, but in as little as 45 minutes and for just R5,500 one child can receive truly life-changing reconstructive surgery,” says Bright.

Those requiring assistance with receiving reconstructive surgery to correct a cleft lip and palate, can visit the Operation Smile South Africa website, connect on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, call tollfree on 0800 0 76453, or WhatsApp on 060 855 7971.

Watch Enok’s story to see how Operation Smile helped change his life forever:

Sources: Operation Smile South Africa (OSSA)
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About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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