Smile Train Calls for Collaboration to Advance Cleft Care in Francophone Africa


5th September, 2022--Rabat, Morocco-- The world’s largest cleft organization, Smile Train, is has called for more collaboration to elevate quality cleft care in Francophone countries across Africa.

Speaking during the inaugural three-day Francophone Cleft Congress held in Rabat, Morocco, Smile Train’s President and CEO, Susannah Schaefer, noted how lack of access to safe and timely cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care affected many patients in underserved communities. She called upon the attendees to leverage the conference as an opportunity to share knowledge and identify ways to advance quality care in their local community.

“Across Africa, we are seeing a greater demand for innovation, and empirical data continues to inform our programs. We are always seeking opportunities for collaboration with governments, institutions, and partners to invest in surgical care, capacity building, and research. I encourage us to continue to use our influence to build sustainable Comprehensive Cleft Care that will meet our patients’ needs and help them fulfill their potential,” said Schaefer.

The event was graced by the Hon. Minister for Health and Social Protection, Kingdom of Morocco, Mr. Khalid Ait Taleb who noted that, “We welcome collaborations with Smile Train and development partners who are invested in ensuring that children receive free, safe and quality surgical care.”

Also officiating the event was the Chairman of Smile Train’s Global Medical Advisory Board, Dr. Larry Hollier, who underscored the return on investment in providing safer surgery. He encouraged more innovation and research to advance the standards of surgical service delivery reaching vulnerable groups.

“Francophone Africa is a diverse multicultural territory with a population of over 264 million people spread across 23 French-speaking countries. There hasn’t been much attention paid to a regional approach to cleft care, primarily due to the language barrier. We also noted that for every $250 spent on treating one patient with a cleft, it returned as much as $50,000 back into the economy. This gives us greater conviction in our investment in safe and timely cleft surgery,” noted Dr. Hollier.

Approximately 13,150 babies are born with clefts annually in Francophone African countries. To date, Smile Train has successfully treated over 31,000 cleft patients across the region, but there is still a huge backlog of patients waiting for surgery. Smile Train continues to invest in research through in-person workshops, online sessions, and mentorship leading to the creation of cleft-related research work to inform policy in the region.

Smile Train has active cleft care programs in 41 countries across Africa with more than 245 partners and over 255 partner hospitals across the continent. Smile Train has made strategic investments in education and training, including collaborating with Scottish charity KidsOR, the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA), and the West African College of Surgeons (WACS) to provide scholarships in various categories. Recently, Smile Train has broke broken ground in Ghana for Africa’s first Cleft Leadership Center to build the capacity of cleft professionals to uphold global standards of care at the local level.


About Smile Train

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. To learn more about how Smile Train's sustainable approach has both an immediate and long-term impact, please visit

Media Contacts:

Smile Train
Emily Manjeru, MCIPR
PR and Communications Manager, Africa
c. +254 724 926 269
[email protected]