In partnership with LGU, RTN, CBNC, Security Bank and Colgate Palmolive Philippines.

Operation Smile Philippines (OSP) is partnering anew with Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp. (RTN), Coral Bay Nickel Corp. (CBNC), the Palawan provincial government, the Narra municipal government and Narra Municipal Hospital, along with Security Bank and Colgate Palmolive Philippines, Inc., to provide free surgeries, dental care, and speech-language instructions to children with cleft lip and cleft palate in Palawan.

The free treatments will be performed from March 13 to 17, 2023, at the Narra Municipal Hospital, some two hours away south of the province’s capital of Puerto Princesa.

OSP is sending a team of 48 volunteer cleft care professionals, including plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, pediatricians, orthodontists, nurses, and speech pathologists, to administer the treatments.

The free cleft surgery program will be OSP’s fifth in Palawan. It had previously mounted such program in Aborlan, Brooke’s Point, Puerto Princesa, and Taytay, also in partnership with RTN, CBNC, and the local government units there, that treated a total of 309 children with cleft conditions.

Palawan Gov. Victorino Dennis M. Socrates said the province welcomes this public-private initiative, adding that oral cleft is a debilitating condition that should be treated early; otherwise, the afflicted will live a life of dependency and social isolation.

Children born with oral cleft conditions have difficulty feeding and speaking and are prone to malnutrition, infection, and other medical and health challenges. Left untreated, the afflicted individuals would also suffer from a lifetime of bullying because of their physical appearance and irregular speech.

Operation Smile sets free cleft surgery mission in Palawan
The incidence of oral cleft in the Philippines is estimated at one in every 500 live births, which would put the number of Palaweños who have or have had this congenital deformity at around 2,500, based on the 2020 census of the province’s population.

OSP executive director Emiliano Romano said the foundation is ramping up its effort to treat more children nationwide and is targeting 1,000 surgeries this year.

Founded in 1988, OSP is the first in-country foundation organized by Operation Smile, a global charity based in the U.S. that traced its roots in the Philippines.

Operation Smile founders Dr. William Magee and his wife, Kathleen Magee, put up the dedicated cleft care organization in 1982, following a medical mission the year before in Naga City, where they saw the gravity of the oral cleft situation.
Operation Smile is now present in 41 countries and has treated over 300,000 children with cleft conditions worldwide, including 33,000 in the Philippines.

As it marks its 40th year, Operation Smile aims to treat one million patients over the next ten years, including those not afflicted with an oral cleft but needing urgent surgery.

Operation Smile has gained valuable insights into the conditions of health care in poor communities through those four decades of interaction with patients, their patients, volunteers, and health workers, and believes it could make an even more significant impact by leveraging its expertise, influence, and insights to empower local communities to provide quality health care to their people.

On March 10, Governor Victorino Dennis Socrates signed an agreement with Operation Smile Philippines for its mission in the province.

Socrates signed it with Emiliano Romano, Operation Smile Philippines executive director and witnessed by provincial health officer Dr. Faye Erika Q. Labrador; Narra Municipal Hospital Chief of Hospital Dr. Maria Arlin A. Josue; and OIC- Chief of Clinics Dr. Frances Louise Z. Albacete.

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