African kids smile at last

More than 200 cleft palate and lip surgeries in just one week - that's the brief for Operation Smile South Africa.

Two teams of surgeons experienced in cleft-palate work, anaesthesiologists, orthodontists, nurses, biomedical technicians, speech pathologists and childcare providers are heading for the Democratic Republic of Congo today to bring smiles to the faces of at least 250 children.

Operation Smile South Africa chairman Jason Sive said yesterday that 46 South African medical specialists will be working in Kinshasa and another 36 in Lubumbashi.

"There will be five tables per mission, each taking five surgeries a day, so that amounts to 25 surgeries per day per mission. Our objective is 125 surgeries per mission site for a total of 250," he said.

"Children born with a cleft palate are ostracised, don't go to school, and live a very tough life. Cleft-lip surgery takes 45 minutes; cleft-palate surgery as little as 90 -that's the duration of one soccer match and a child's life is changed forever."

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