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Giving confidence to smile

Hendrik Visser, born with a cleft lip and palate, is one of the patients who underwent corrective surgery last year during Operation Smile. The operation was done by local specialist, Dr Susan Kruger.Operation Smile South Africa, a non-profit medical service organisation, will once again provide free life-changing surgery to Namibians born with a cleft lip or cleft palate from 11 April to 15 April at the Windhoek Central Hospital.
Operation Smile South Africa was founded in 2006 and is an international medial humanitarian charity organisation dedicated to improving the health and lives of young adults by providing free reconstructive surgery.
“The aim of coming to Namibia is to provide life-changing surgery to Namibians born with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate and other facial deformities,” said Nadine Christians, media coordinator for Operation Smile South Africa.
The organisation visited Namibia for the first time in 2010. It provided free surgery to 51 children and adults across the country with the assistance of the Ministry of Health and Social Services and NamPharm Foundation, last year.
Operation Smile South Africa is active in five African countries, the organisation’s mission is to treat the backlog in their mission countries.
Christians says that although they visit the countries once a year, the missions can be undertaken twice depending on the need in the country. She said the organisation also provides free follow-up health care to all the patients that received surgery.
Christians further said that patients are selected by the Operation Smile South Africa medical team after thorough assessment which is done by their multi-disciplinary medical team based on a range of criteria.
“We never try to turn anyone away, but there are factors which influence the decision of our medical team and this include malnutrition and illness.”
She said that if patients are ill or malnourished, they refer those patients for local medical help within the healthcare system of the mission country. All patients who cannot receive surgery will receive the needed attention through their local healthcare system.
Any person with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate is encouraged to come to the Windhoek Central Hospital on Wednesday, 11 April for assessment. If chosen for surgery, patients will have to remain at the Windhoek Central Hospital through the surgery week.

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