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Quick Facts


  • Every 3 minutes, a child somewhere in the world is born with a cleft lip and cleft palate, and are often unable to eat, speak, socialize or smile.
  • One in 10 of children born with a cleft will die before their first birthday.
  • Approximately one in every 1000 babies in Africa is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate.
  • Children with facial deformities who do not receive reconstructive surgery often have difficulty breathing, drinking, eating and speaking. As a result, many suffer from malnutrition, medical and psychological problems.
  • Many children with untreated cleft lips and cleft palates develop permanent and significant hearing loss.
  • A cleft lip or cleft palate operation and follow up care costs approximately R5500.
  • In as little as 45 minutes, one cleft lip surgery can change a child's life forever.


  • Operation Smile International was founded in 1982 by Dr. Bill and Kathy Magee and headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia.
  • Operation Smile South Africa (OSSA) was officially registered as a section 21 (non-profit) company in March 2006.
  • Operation Smile South Africa (OSSA) has treated more than 4 000 children since 2006.
  • Since 1982, more than 200 000 children and young adults have been treated by thousands of Operation Smile volunteers worldwide and thousands of healthcare professionals have been trained globally.


  • Operation Smile provides care for children in 60 countries worldwide. Nine resource countries raise funds and provide medical volunteers, while 42 program countries receive education and training and conduct surgeries.
  • Operation Smile works in 13 countries in Africa. More than 5,000 medical professionals from around the world volunteer with Operation Smile.


  • In addition to contributing free medical treatment, Operation Smile trains local medical professionals in its partner countries and donates crucial equipment to lay the groundwork for long-term self-sufficiency. Last fiscal year, nearly 60% of Operation Smile’s patients received care through local, in-country programs implemented by locally-based teams of medical professionals trained by Operation Smile.
  • Through Operation Smile’s Global Standards of Care, the organization ensures every patient cared for benefits from the same sophisticated equipment, procedures and highly-trained, credentialed staff, no matter where they receive treatment.
  • OSSA’s World Care Program cares for patients around the continent with more severe craniofacial malformations.


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