20 people to get free surgeries

20 people to get free surgeries

Abu Dhabi: This weekend, 20 individuals in the UAE will finally gain a new lease on life.

They were born with cleft lips and palates, but will finally undergo free transformative surgery to correct their facial deformities. The procedures are part of international charity organisation Operation Smile’s first UAE mission, which is being supported by more than 200 volunteering medical practitioners and staff.

“We are delighted to be able to make this difference in the lives of the affected individuals. Other than resolving the obvious difficulties presented by cleft conditions to basic activities like eating and speaking, the procedures will also offer a major confidence boost to older patients,” Moraq Cromey-Hawke, executive director for Operation Smile UAE, told Gulf News.

Cleft lips and palates are orofacial congenital birth defects that affect the upper lip and the roof of the mouth. Cleft lips appear as a gap in the skin of the upper lip, and cleft palates are splits or openings in the roof of the mouth. These congenital deformities affect one in every 700 babies on average, and create difficulties in eating and speech, or result in frequent ear infections and dental problems.


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Operation Smile was founded in 1982 on the belief that no child should suffer or die because of a facial deformity. It was set up in the UAE in 2011 under the patronage of Shaikha Aljazia Al Nahyan, wife of Shaikh Abdulla Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Since then, Operation Smile UAE has provided the life-changing surgeries free of cost to 3,500 children in developing countries, including Jordan, Ethiopia, and the Philippines.

But this is the first time the organisation is offering free surgeries in the UAE.

“When we started operating here, the UAE was simply designated as a resource country to raise funds for international efforts. But we soon came to know that there were affected individuals who could not afford the surgery here, which created the need for a UAE mission as well,” Cromey-Hawke said. Each corrective procedure costs between Dh10,000 to Dh70,000, and most insurance packages do not cover them.

The surgeries will be performed at the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, which has volunteered the services of 186 staff members, including two surgeons, two anaesthesia physicians, nine technicians and more than 50 nurses.

Having received many applications for the surgeries, Operation Smile UAE has shortlisted 36 patients and screened them to select the 20 individuals who would be operated.

“We may have other missions in the UAE in the future, but for the rest of the year, we will continue our fund-raising activities to support international missions,” Cromey-Hawke said.