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Makeni: Smile Train launches free cleft program in Sierra Leone

26 February 2020 at 14:57 | 1386 views

Global cleft charity Smile Train has partnered with Holy Spirit Catholic Hospital in Makeni to provide regular free cleft treatment.

Speaking during the inaugural cleft camp, Smile Train Program Manager West Africa Victoria Awazie noted that myths and misconceptions that surround cleft continue to hinder access to free surgery which takes less than hour. She added that in efforts to achieve Universal Health Coverage, the partnership sought to provide a long-term solution for cleft at local communities. She urged the community to visit the facility and register to receive treatment at no cost.

“There is still a huge backlog of patients lacking access to safe and quality surgeries. Patients born with cleft are often isolated and stigmatized due to lack of awareness about cleft lip and palate. As Smile Train, we adapt a sustainable model in which we empower healthcare practitioners at community level to administer high-quality care for children undergoing cleft surgery. Patients can therefore receive treatment on a regular basis at Holy Spirit Hospital,” noted Victoria.

Victoria added that Smile Train continues to identify more hospitals to partner with across Sierra Leone to ensure that patients travel shorter distances to access treatment.

“We acknowledge that logistics can be a hindrance to accessing treatment. In order to achieve Universal Health Coverage, our partnership with Holy Spirit Hospital is the first in a series of many, and we look forward to empowering more community level hospitals so that patients are able to comfortably walk into the nearest hospital and receive surgery.”

Pediatric surgeon Dr. Aiah Lebbie, the only pediatric surgeon in Sierra Leone of Holy Spirit Catholic Hospital poses with Nehemiah Maxwell and his mother Maraimah Sankoh before he went in for surgery to repair his cleft. Smile Train has partnered with Holy Spirit Catholic Hospital as a sustainable approach to achieving Universal Health Coverage.

Cleft lip and palate is a common facial birth difference that affects one in 700 globally. Its cause remains unknown, but it is associated with genetics, nutritional deficiency (inadequate folic acid), smoking and drinking, and taking medication without prescription during pregnancy. Cleft lip and palate is categorized as one of the neglected surgical diseases which when treated can bring economic prosperity to the country.

Smile Train has been actively supporting programs in Africa since 2002. In that time, the organization has developed local partnerships with more than 245 partner hospitals and 255+ medical partners in 38 countries throughout Africa to provide free cleft treatment. To date, Smile Train’s local medical partners have provided more than 113,000 life-changing cleft surgeries across Africa.

About Smile Train
Smile Train empowers local medical professionals with training, funding, and resources to provide free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children globally. We advance a sustainable solution and scalable global health model for cleft treatment, drastically improving children’s lives, including their ability to eat, breathe, speak, and ultimately thrive. To learn more about how Smile Train’s sustainable approach means donations have both an immediate and long-term impact, please visit For more information about Smile Train’s work in Africa, please contact

Source: Smile Train