Smile Train India, the country’s largest cleft care NGO, has announced the launch of its nationwide ‘Zor Se Bolo’ campaign in honor of National Cleft Day. The campaign intends to raise awareness for individuals with a cleft lip and/or palate and to let communities know that clefts are treatable through safe and accessible surgical care. The campaign aims to collaborate with all relevant stakeholders, from celebrity supporters, medical partners, donors and cleft patients, in communicating several pertinent facts regarding comprehensive cleft care for children.
Endorsing the campaign with an appeal on social media, Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu said, “Every child deserves the opportunity to live a life free from prejudice and discrimination. Around the world, Smile Train advocates the need for comprehensive cleft care. This campaign will go a long way in improving understanding of this treatable condition in India and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Every Year more than 35,000 children are born with a cleft lip and/or palate in India. While the ideal age for lip surgery is 3-6 months and palate surgery is 9-18 months after birth, associated stigma and lack of awareness about this treatable birth difference forces children to live with an untreated cleft.
The need for increased awareness is highlighted by stories of patients like 19-year-old Durgesh. Durgesh was born with a cleft palate in a village near Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh. His parents only consulted a local doctor when he turned six, and sadly, the uninformed doctor advised his parents to take no action. As a result, Durgesh suffered from speech impairment and poor nutrition through his childhood and started working as a daily wager from a young age. When he turned 18, he reached out to Smile Train on their cleft helpline and finally received free surgery for his palate. He is undergoing speech therapy at Smile Train’s partner hospital, National Heart Institute, in Delhi and there is a marked improvement in his speech and confidence. His biggest regret is that he couldn’t get treatment at the right age.
Smile Train’s Senior Vice President & Regional Director for Asia, Mamta Carroll said, “We know the power of public opinion in creating societal change, especially in a large and populous country like India. For too long now, cleft has been seen as a curse or a bad omen when it is a treatable birth difference. While Smile Train has made a tremendous impact in the last 21 year, supporting more than 6.5 Lakh surgeries in India, awareness about cleft treatment is still one of the biggest challenges we face. This campaign is an opportunity to debunk these myths and get everyone to ‘say it loudly – cleft is curable’.”
February 8 is observed as National Cleft Day by the Indian Society of Cleft Lip, Palate and Craniofacial Anomalies and cleft charities in India. This year’s ‘Zor Se Bolo’ campaign is in line with Smile Train India’s previous initiatives around National Cleft Day to improve the quality of cleft care available to children in India. The campaign will continue for the next three months, featuring messaging from other prominent Smile Train India supporters such cricketer and sports icon Harbhajan Singh, Smile Train India medical partners, and other relevant industry stakeholders in the form of webinars, videos, and social media activities.
About Smile Train India
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.
For more than 20 years, Smile Train has supported safe and quality cleft care for more than 1.5 million children globally, including more than 500K children in India.
To learn more, please visit smiletrainindia.org or call the national cleft helpline at 1800 103 8301.