Lasting health and happiness

Cleft surgery can transform a child’s life in as little as 45 minutes – but there is often a whole package of specialist cleft care needed to see our patients through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood. This comprehensive approach to cleft care gives our patients the best chance of living happy, healthy lives, as well as increasing the likelihood of them being able to attend school and pursue the bright futures they deserve.

Ngan holds an image of herself before cleft surgery.

More than just cleft surgery – it’s comprehensive cleft care

A child with a cleft lip or cleft palate may need the help of many specialists during their journey to recovery. From nutrition, dentistry, orthodontics, speech therapy and psychosocial care – our volunteers from across world are all professionally certified and dedicated to providing comprehensive care for our patients and their families, every step of the way.

Dental treatment at OS Centre in Colombia

What we provide


Timely cleft surgery is essential to a child’s long-term health and well-being. 


Children with cleft conditions often struggle to eat and can become malnourished. We give them nutritional support to help them get strong enough for surgery.


A cleft lip or cleft palate makes it difficult to speak and eat. Speech and language therapists help our patients speak more clearly and teach parents feeding techniques for their babies.


Dentists help with specialised procedures and create devices that improve patients’ surgical results and overall health.


Orthodontic care is also crucial to a patients’ healthy oral development and personal confidence.

Psychosocial care

Certified psychosocial care providers support patients and their families throughout their treatment.

Building bridges to care

Our local team work tirelessly to find patients who never thought they could have have their cleft repaired

Partnerships help us do more

Operation Smile works with local health care providers, governments, non-profit organisations and hospitals to deliver the most effective and safe surgical care to patients.

Surgeons at work
Group of surgeons during an Operation Smile Programme in the Philippines. Photo: Marc Ascher

Global cleft care

We have foundations and offices all around the world. Our work spans more than 30 countries, supported by 6,000 medical volunteers from all over the world.

With your help, we’re able to improve access to safe surgery and comprehensive cleft care for thousands of children with a cleft each year. We know that local healthcare professionals in the low- and middle-income countries where we work are passionate about improving standards of care for the people they serve – all they need are the resources and training to make it possible. 

Cleft Surgeon Tilinde Chokotho with cleft patient
Operation Malawi Cleft Surgeon Tilinde Chokotho, with 12-years-old Belita, before her cleft surgery. Photo: Zute Lightfoot

International and Local Medical Programmes

Every year Operation Smile runs hundreds of medical programmes across the world – each one of them is unique. In some places where we work, we supply medical equipment, in others, we deploy specialist medical volunteers. Regardless of the location, we work with the local community to deliver high quality cleft care.

On an international programme, medical and non-medical volunteers from around the world come together seamlessly to deliver exceptional cleft care to our patients. During local programmes, the same quality of care is provided, but it’s delivered by local healthcare professionals.

We’re proud of the fact that 78% of the medical volunteer positions filled on our surgical programmes in 2020 were held by health professionals from low- and middle-income countries – the majority of whom received their training and education from Operation Smile.

It’s an important milestone when a foundation builds the capacity to host a programme on its own. Learn more about how Operation Smile Malawi is working to reach this milestone

During the years that followed Siham surgery, orthodontist Dr. Abderrahman Harouga from Morocco performed Siham’s ongoing dental care, at the care centre in Casablanca. Photo: Lorenzo Monacelli
During the years that followed her surgery, orthodontist Dr. Abderrahman Harouga from Morocco performed Siham’s ongoing dental care. Photo: Lorenzo Monacelli

Cleft Care Centres – comprehensive cleft care

Our patients’ need for care doesn’t stop when a surgical programme ends. That’s why we’ve set up 27 cleft care centres, in 18 countries to provide year-round care for those who need more complex treatment and support. At these centres, in addition to cleft and orthognathic (jaw) surgery, patients have access to free services including dentistry, orthodontics, speech therapy, nutritional counselling, and psychosocial care. Read more about comprehensive cleft care.