Cleft lips and palates are congenital birth defects that affect one in every 700 babiesm, causing difficulties in eating and speech. Image Credit: Operation Smile UAE

Abu Dhabi: A charitable group will soon offer free corrective surgeries to children in the UAE born with cleft lips and palates.

The free surgeries will be designated for children from needy families who cannot afford the procedures, and will be performed in July, Morag Cromey-Hawke, executive director for Operation Smile UAE, told Gulf News.

“We will be able to offer about 20 free corrective surgeries, which would cost between Dh10,000 and Dh70,000 each. Many expatriate families have insurance coverage that does not cover the costs of these procedures, and these are the children we want to help,” Cromey-Hawke said.

Cleft lips and palates are orofacial congenital birth defects that affect the upper lip and the roof of the mouth. Cleft lips appear as a gap in the skin of the upper lip, and cleft palates are splits or openings in the roof of the mouth. These congenital deformities affect one in every 700 babies, and create difficulties in eating and speech, or result in frequent ear infections and dental problems.

Since its establishment in 2011, Operation Smile UAE has provided the life-changing surgeries to 3,500 children in developing countries, including Jordan, Ethiopia, Morocco, Ecuador, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, China and Madagascar. But this is the first time the organisation will offer surgeries in the UAE, and it coincides with the UAE’s Year of Giving.

The organisation will ensure that people who apply for the free surgeries are indeed unable to afford the treatment on their own. Cromey-Hawke earlier told Gulf News that there were at least 50 children listed on the organisation’s database.

To be eligible, children have to be at least six months of age at the time of the procedure. The surgeries will be carried out at a local hospital.

During the rest of the year, the organisation will continue organising events to collect funds for its international missions.

To register their interest for the free surgeries, parents can email Operation Smile UAE on patients@operationsmileuae.ae