Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft charity, has announced a partnership with Scottish charity, Kids Operating Room (KidsOR), to supply an initial 20 paediatric operating rooms across Africa, providing essential, life-saving surgical care to more than 12,000 children by the end of 2021.

The two organisations share a long-standing commitment to increasing access to paediatric surgical and anaesthesia care through a sustainable and empowering model.

Charities Smile Train and Kids Operating Room Announce Partnership to Transform Paediatric Surgical Landscape Across Africa
Photo: Smile Train

For more than 20 years, Smile Train has empowered local medical professionals around the globe to provide safe, high-quality cleft surgery and on-going cleft care, supporting more than 1.5 million surgeries for some of the world’s most vulnerable children.

Similarly, KidsOR, which formally launched in 2018 after years of collaboration around safe surgery, works to provide dedicated, specialist facilities and equipment for paediatric surgery in low-resource settings, supporting local doctors through training and infrastructure development. The organisation has committed to installing 120 paediatric operating rooms across Africa by 2030. 


The first new facility installed under the partnership will be at the Teaching Hospital in Treichville, Ivory Coast, West Africa. Treichville Hospital serves a population of five million people and provides training for surgeons from many other countries in Africa – but as with so many hospitals throughout the continent, there is no dedicated operating room for children in their hospital.

“Often in our hospital, we do not have the right equipment to perform paediatric surgery safely. Especially with small children and babies, we cannot use the large surgical instrument we have available. This means that children with easily treatable surgical conditions, like cleft lip and palate, do not always receive proper, life-saving care when they need it the most,” said Professor Bankole Sanni Rouma, a paediatric surgeon at the Teaching Hospital of Treichville. “The new operating room for children’s surgery will make a big difference to my hospital, and the hundreds of children we can now help, as it will allow surgeons to enhance their skills in caring for children and provide the proper equipment for treatment.”

With 20 operating rooms already planned for the first year of the partnership, the long-term collaboration will ultimately result in more than 30 paediatric operating rooms provided across countries in Africa over the next five years.

Charities Smile Train and Kids Operating Room Announce Partnership to Transform Paediatric Surgical Landscape Across Africa
Photo: Smile Train

“We are extremely proud to work with Smile Train on this project. Our strategies for the development of care in Africa are closely aligned and by collaborating we can maximize our combined impact, minimize administrative costs and prevent duplication of effort,” said KidsOR Chief Executive David Cunningham. “We are delighted to be able to work with them to ensure that more children have access to the care they need in a sustainable, locally delivered way.”

“Smile Train and KidsOR share a core set of values – sustainability, empowerment, local leadership, and a dedication to providing safe surgical and anaesthesia care for children,” said Smile Train President and Chief Executive Officer, Susannah Schaefer. “Through this partnership, we will be able to build that long-term capacity and make a difference in the lives of so many people affected by treatable surgical conditions like cleft.”

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Nisha Kotecha is the Founder of Good News Shared. Having worked and volunteered for charities in the UK for over 10 years, Nisha is on a mission to highlight how amazing charities are.

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