How Smile Train is Navigating the Coronavirus Pandemic


As the world adapts to the new normal occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a welcome relief that some of our partners in Africa can now resume cleft surgeries which had been postponed for two months. There have been approximately 2500 patients who were not able to receive the transformational surgeries in the months of April and May. During these times, Smile Train’s top priority remained, as always, the safety and well-being of our beneficiaries, medical partners, friends, family, and global supporters.

Our partner teams have adapted quickly and resourcefully to constantly changing conditions. Though the surgeries were postponed, our comprehensive cleft care and partnership model enabled us to get back on track swiftly and sustain access to safe treatment for our patients. During the period when surgeries were postponed, Smile Train supported partners to continue to provide comprehensive cleft care including nutrition, speech therapy and psychological support to patients. Smile Train also invested more than $500,000 in the provision and distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), handwashing facilities and masks for partners and patients as well as equipment to empower our partners to continue cleft care while protecting themselves and their patients against COVID-19.

Although Smile Train has provided guidance for resumption of cleft treatment, public health measures continue to be of paramount importance in the response to the pandemic. These measures include regular washing of hands, social physical distancing, wearing of face masks/coverings in public, avoidance of non-essential movement and travels and avoidance of large gatherings. While some countries have managed to slow the spread of the virus more efficiently, some are still experiencing challenges. We strongly advise our partners to adhere to their national guidelines and hospital-based guidelines as it relates to elective surgeries.

Among the countries that have resumed surgeries include Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, Nigeria, Zambia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Benin. In Uganda, for example, Sr. Dr. Najjuka Justina from our partner hospital, Surgical Centre Smile Train Mbarara (SCSTM), was able to transform the lives of a record 114 patients in the month of June 2020. We continue to monitor our regions across the world daily, including highly affected areas of Asia, Europe, South and Central America, and Africa. As the situation has developed, we have constantly ensured they each have the support they need.

Another baby is born with a cleft every three minutes, even during a pandemic. While the needs of every region and medical partner are different, everyone who works with us at Smile Train shares an unwavering commitment to providing lifesaving cleft treatment. Thanks to you, our passionate and caring supporters, Smile Train will be there to provide our patients and partners the care they need -- as well as the partnership and solidarity that will guide us all through the days to come.

COVID-19 Surgical Patient Checklist

In the spirit of the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist, the COVID-19 Surgical Patient Checklist was developed by a team of surgeons and anesthesiologists at Lifebox with input from surgical teams representing 7 different African nations, and Smile Train and the World Federation of the Societies of Anesthesiologists (WFSA).

COVID-19 Surgical Patient Checklist PDF