Every three minutes, a child is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate.

Our Mission

We estimate that there are millions of children waiting for care in the 34 countries where we work.

The majority of these children are unable to receive the medical care they need because it is too costly, far away, or specialised. Because of this, being born with a cleft condition can be fatal. If a child survives, they may face bullying and social isolation.

Through our expertise in treating cleft lip and cleft palate, we create solutions that deliver safe surgery to people where it’s needed most.

Our Approach

We have established a global footprint and currently provide world-class cleft care in more than 30 countries with help from thousands of volunteers representing more than 60 countries. Learn how we’re delivering safe surgery around the world.

Lexxi Katiuska Pushaina, 8 years, female; UCL; before with her friend Carlos Jose Uriana Ipuana, 7 years, in her uncle's village Polvorin, Colombia on August 22, 2018. (Operation Smile Photo-Rohanna Mertens)

What started as a family-led, medical-mission based organisation has grown into a global network of passionate individuals united under the belief that access to safe surgery is not a privilege, but a universal human right.

Empowering local health professionals through training and education creates surgical solutions that last. We’re proud that most of our medical volunteers are from the low-and middle-income countries we serve. By partnering with ministries of health, academic institutions, corporations, local health professionals and other organisations, our goal is to change lives and revolutionise how entire health systems deliver surgical care where we work.

Early Operation Smile mission with founders

Operation Smile was founded in 1982 when Dr. Bill Magee, Jr., a plastic surgeon, and his wife, Kathy, a nurse and clinical social worker, travelled to the Philippines with a group of medical volunteers to repair children’s cleft lips and cleft palates.

Surgical team performing cleft surgery

Find out more about how we’re creating surgical solutions that last through training and education.

Group photo of Operation Smile Jordan volunteers

We partner with leading global corporations and other businesses that share our vision of a world where no child suffers from lack of access to safe surgery. Get to know our partners.

Our Commitment to Comprehensive Care

Surgery is the first step in repairing a cleft condition, it can immediately improve a child’s ability to eat, breathe and speak. After surgery, we provide comprehensive care based on each child’s needs including dentistry, speech therapy and psychosocial support. This increases their likelihood of living a normal life, attending school and pursuing a brighter future. We’re committed to treating the whole patient because it’s the right thing to do. Find out how we’re providing the highest quality of surgical care to every child, everywhere.

Our Vision

We envision a future where health and dignity are improved through safe surgery. When we meet families affected by cleft who live in some of the most impoverished communities in the world, we’re reminded of the transformative effect surgery can have on the lives of people like Dede and his daughter Clara.

Unconditional Love

Clara was born with a severe cleft lip and cleft palate. Her mother didn’t dare to breastfeed her. She even refused to acknowledge Clara as her own child. Her father Dede decided he would do everything he could to find a solution for his daughter. It would take him six years.

Photo: Zute Lightfoot.