How Smile Train is Navigating the Coronavirus Pandemic

As the spread of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 continues, it is now more important than ever to support each other with compassion and kindness. During these times, Smile Train’s top priority remains, as always, the safety and well-being of our beneficiaries, medical partners, friends, family, and global supporters.

We have asked our employees and partners to follow the protective measures recommended by the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, and their local government officials. We are monitoring 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 continuously ensured they each have the support they need.

Our nimble teams have adapted quickly and resourcefully to constantly changing conditions. We have temporarily postponed surgeries where advisable, but our work has not stopped. We are continuing to support our international teams based on their unique needs, and many of our local medical partners are still on the ground acting as invaluable resources to their communities – particularly in vulnerable countries where access to healthcare remains a challenge.

In Brazil, for example, Dr Daniely Farias, a plastic surgeon in Campo Grande, is working on the front lines against COVID-19. Because cleft treatments are postponed until the worst of the pandemic passes, Dr Farias has stepped up to use her medical skills to support coronavirus patients.

Before many cleft surgeries in Pakistan were postponed, Smile Train partners in Sindh Provence went door-to-door in their communities seeking potential cleft patients. While doing so, they also took time to teach locals the importance of handwashing and social distancing, in addition to distributing free food, surgical masks, gloves, and hand sanitiser. Where it is safe, some programs in Pakistan are continuing to provide cleft surgeries to children in need.

In addition, many of our providers, such as Nurse Lisette Jerez in Chile, are using telemedicine, including platforms such as WhatsApp, to remain in touch with their patients, helping to care for them even while remaining socially distant.

On 1 April, Tang Ruijie, a 16-month-old with a severe cleft, received one of Smile Train’s first cleft surgeries in China since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic more than three months ago. As government restrictions slowly lift and we see communities returning to normalcy, our partners in China are cautiously working to re-launch these life-changing procedures. While there are many new guidelines to ensure the safety of staff, patients, and families – there is also hope. We are thrilled for Tang and his family, and hope to see many more children join him on the path to a healthier future.

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.