Overcoming obstacles and finding solutions for children and families

About Operation Smile


Solutions & Partnerships

It takes a village to raise a child, they say. In South Africa, our ‘village’ of local medical professionals, hospitals, universities, government and other NGOs work with Operation Smile to create the most effective solutions for children and adults born with cleft conditions.

Compared to most other African countries, South Africa’s public health care system is advanced. Still, many hospitals are chronically under-resourced and overburdened.

Especially in remote, rural areas, access to specialist medical services is challenging. As a result, children born with cleft conditions have to wait for the help they need. And Covid-19 restrictions just made things worse.

But we remain committed to finding the best solutions for children born with a cleft lip or palate. From short term medical programmes to research, education and training, everything we do has the same goal: to provide the most effective surgical and comprehensive care to cleft patients in South and Sub-Saharan Africa.



Outreach programmes

Patient Outreach & Cleft Awareness

In South Africa, we concentrate our patient outreach programme in rural and under-served communities. Because, this is where access to cleft care is most challenging. We go out into these communities to raise awareness, dispel myths and explain that there is hope for those born with cleft conditions.

Surgical programmes

Surgical Programmes

Conducting surgical programmes in far flung locations remains at the heart of our work. But in South Africa, we more commonly run our surgical programmes in local hospitals over the weekends. It’s a win-win situation. Facilities that often stand empty after hours are fully utilised – and we are able to greatly reduce patient backlogs.

Comprehensive care programme

Comprehenisve Care

Sometimes, a simple surgical procedure is all a patient needs. Other times, patients and their families need ongoing care and support, including speech therapy, dental care or orthodontics. Parents may also need support. Through the support group, Cleft Friends, families are able to share experiences and learn from one another.

Research programmes

Research Programmes

Research is crucial because we still don’t know exactly what causes cleft conditions. More than this, research also needs to focus on finding new ways of delivering surgical care to those who have difficulty getting the help they need. We have to listen to patients and understand the challenges they face, so we can break down those obstacles.

Training and education

Training and Education

Training and education is at the heart of everything we do. Ideas and knowledge are constantly shared among our medical specialists from diverse backgrounds and levels of expertise.

We also train and educate community health care workers and volunteers, who go out among the people to spread awareness and hope.

Grateful thanks to

Our Partners

We could not do the work we do without the support of our generous corporate sponsors and partnerships with government and other NGOs.

If you would like to partner with Operation Smile South Africa to help transform the lives of children born with cleft lip or cleft palate, please contact us. Whether you want to build your brand or get your colleagues and staff involved in valuable team building,  we have a dedicated team to support you.