Every Three Minutes...

a child is born with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate, annually that is an estimated 175,200 children world-wide.

Only 7% of children living with unrepaired cleft conditions survive to reach the age of 20.

Ramata Abubakari before her surgery

But you can offer them hope.

With your support, we can provide safe surgical care to these children.

Life-changing surgery to correct a cleft lip costs as little as $240 and takes as little as 45 minutes. Providing surgery to a child ensures they are able to grow up and live a life without the uncertainties of living with a facial deformity, a life free from bullying and social isolation.

Our Vision

At Operation Smile Australia we believe that everyone suffering with cleft and craniofacial conditions deserves exceptional, safe surgical care.

In countries such as Australia surgery to fix cleft conditions is common and usually completed early on in a child’s life. In countries that Operation Smile works in, too often families are unable to afford or access the surgical care they need.

As one of the largest volunteer-based medical charities in the world, we are able to heal children’s smiles and bring them hope for a better future through free, safe cleft surgeries. We believe in sustainable change achieved through the education of medical professionals, providing comprehensive cleft care in resource-poor environments and conducting cleft research aimed at prevention.


of people lack access to surgical care.

ONLY 6.3%

of an estimated 312.9 million surgical procedures performed each year go to the poorest third of the global population.


people in low- and middle-income countries cannot access basic surgical care.

Madalena Moises, Female, 21 years old, UCL

Lack of access to surgery means that easily treatable conditions like cleft conditions can become fatal.

Our Mission

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

Why Cleft Conditions are Serious

When left untreated, having a cleft condition becomes a lifelong hardship

Having a cleft condition can cause serious health issues if not corrected: difficulty with speech, dental problems, hearing loss, ear infections, difficulty eating and swallowing, which can lead to malnutrition and starvation.

Often children and adults living with cleft conditions are subjected to social isolation and bullying. This can lead to fear of attending public places, such as schools for fear of bullying.

These are hardships we believe no one should have to bear.

FAQ's About Cleft

A cleft is a gap in the mouth that didn’t close during the early stages of pregnancy, and this kind of birth defect happens more often than you may realise. Worldwide, it’s estimated that a child is born every three minutes with a cleft — about one in 500-750 births. Oftentimes, a cleft can be easy to see because it’s an opening in the lip. However, it can be harder to know if someone has a cleft condition when it affects the roof of the mouth, which is called the palate.

The exact cause is unknown. Cleft lips and cleft palates are congenital defects that occur early in embryonic development. Scientists believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as maternal illness, drugs or malnutrition, may lead to a cleft lip or cleft palate. If one child in a family is born with a cleft, the risk increases by 2 to 4 percent that future children in the family will suffer from the same defect.

There are many risk factors that can increase the likelihood of birth defects. While some causes are still unknown, genetics and family history, pre-existing medical conditions, poor nutrition and exposure to harmful environmental substances have shown to affect the healthy development of a baby. As a result, these factors could also be the cause of a baby born with a cleft lip or cleft palate. Researchers hope to prevent clefts from happening in the future by continuing to study and figure out all the genes that are involved in the formation of a cleft condition as well as the interaction of these genes with the environment. For example, the protective effect of taking folic acid supplements during pregnancy in other conditions such as spina bifida has been documented, but attempts to prove the same protective effect for cleft conditions have remained inconsistent until recently.

It is estimated that, worldwide, a child is born every 3 minutes with a cleft — about one in 500-750 births.

A cleft can create serious health issues if not corrected. Babies can have difficulty with feeding, which in some parts of the world can lead to malnutrition, or even starvation. Ear infections can occur — and recurring ear infections can lead to hearing loss. Dental development can be affected. Speech and language development can also be impaired. Children may also suffer from bullying and social isolation.