Operation Smile is a leading global nonprofit bridging the gap in access to essential surgeries and health care, starting with cleft surgery and comprehensive care. We provide medical expertise, training, mentorship, research and care through our dedicated staff and volunteers around the world, working alongside local governments, nonprofits and health systems, and supported by our generous donors and corporate partners.
What do you believe in?
At Operation Smile, we're wholeheartedly committed to transforming lives. We believe that every child deserves access to top-notch care. For more than four decades, we've been right there alongside communities worldwide, working hand in hand to offer free, life-changing cleft surgeries and comprehensive care. Yet, there's more to be done. Five billion people, two-thirds of our global family, lack access to safe and affordable surgery.
To make a real and lasting difference, Operation Smile focuses on surgical excellence and investing in people and infrastructure. Working with local doctors, health systems and governments, we train and provide educational opportunities to medical providers in the communities we work to bolster local hospitals and clinics, bringing care closer to the patients who need it most.
The combined efforts of our diverse team, which includes medical, health and student volunteers, local governments, nonprofits and health systems, along with the generous support of donors and corporate partners, inspire others to join us. Together, we're creating a world where quality health care is a right, not a privilege.
Learn More About Cleft Conditions
What is cleft lip and cleft palate, and how often do cleft conditions occur?
A cleft condition is a gap in the mouth that didn't close during the early stages of pregnancy, and this happens more often than you may realize. It is estimated that, worldwide, a child is born every three minutes with a cleft condition — about one in every 500 to 750 births. Sometimes cleft condition can be easy to see because it’s an opening in the lip. Other times, it’s harder to tell if someone was born with a cleft condition because it’s an opening in the roof of their mouth, which is called the palate.
Why do cleft conditions happen and can they be be prevented?
There are many risk factors that can increase the likelihood of a cleft condition. While some causes are still unknown, genetics and family history, pre-existing medical conditions, poor nutrition and exposure to harmful environmental substances can affect the healthy development of a baby. As a result, these factors could contribute to a baby being born with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate.
While there are still many misconceptions surrounding the causes of cleft conditions, Operation Smile has teamed up with the University of Southern California and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to conduct the International Family Study (IFS) to better understand why they happen and, hopefully in the future, find a way to ensure that no more people are born with cleft lip and/or cleft palate.