NAT Sheikh Saqr bin Saud Al Qasimi with-1647440678255
Sheikh Saqr bin Saud Al Qasimi, Member of the Royal Family of Ras Al Khaimah (third from left) at the RAK Hospital and Smile Train partnership announcement conference Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: RAK Hospital will be offering 30 free surgeries every year in the UAE for newborns with cleft palates or lips.

The hospital has partnered with Smile Train, a cleft-focused organisation, to provide free cleft treatment for people affected by cleft lip and/or palate in the UAE and across the Middle East.

What is a cleft deformity?

Globally, a baby is born with a cleft every three minutes. Other statistics indicate that worldwide, one in 700 babies is born with a cleft lip and/or palate, which can cause difficulties in eating, breathing, hearing and speaking.

Cleft treatment alleviates many of these difficulties. A cleft occurs when certain body parts and structures do not fuse together during fetal development. Clefts can involve the lip and/or the roof of the mouth, which is made up of both hard and soft palate.

Around the world, many children with clefts never receive the reconstructive surgery they need. However, this regional programme aims to support patients who cannot afford the required surgery.

Commenting on the initiative, Sheikh Saqr bin Saud Al Qasimi said: “Cleft lip and palate affect so many children globally but can easily be rectified with simple surgery. This makes it incumbent upon us to take action to help improve the lives of all those with the condition. The initiative between RAK Hospital and Smile Train forms a partnership between two internationally respected institutions and is aligned with Ras Al Khaimah’s strategy of developing a world-class healthcare system to benefit the people of our Emirate and also the many patients who seek to travel here for specialized procedures.”

Dr Raza Siddiqui, CEO of Arabian Healthcare Group and Executive Director, RAK Hospital, said: “We are very proud to partner with Smile Train to support their vision of transforming the lives of children with cleft lip and palate. As an institution, RAK Hospital has always remained at the forefront of providing community care by introducing various new initiatives, measures and advanced treatment options. It is with great pride that I can announce that the first surgery under this noble initiative supported by Smile Train has just been successfully completed on a one-year old boy from Abu Dhabi.”

NAT Dr. Raza Siddiqui-1647440672970
(L to R) Dr Raza Siddiqui, Executive Director, RAK Hospital; Afaf Meky, Executive Manager, Smile Train UAE; and Dr J.M. Gauer, CEO, RAK Hospital

What the surgery will entail?

The free cleft reconstructive surgeries will be conducted for patients over the age of three months after a thorough assessment of each individual case. Procedures will include primary cleft lip repair, primary cleft palate repair and a number of other specialised secondary surgical interventions. All the surgeries will be performed in compliance with Smile Train’s Safety and Quality Protocols and will be documented as per their required format.

Smile Train works to empower local medical professionals with the training and resources to provide free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care in their own communities. To date, Smile Train has trained more than 2,100 medical professionals, supported more than 1.5 million cleft surgeries and partnered with over 1,100 partner hospitals.

Elaborating on the initiative, Susannah Schaefer, President and CEO, Smile Train, said: “We are delighted to launch programmes in the UAE in partnership with RAK Hospital... We’re ready to work closely with them to ensure that every person in need is able to get the high-quality, timely cleft care they need to thrive.”