According to World Health Organization one out of every 700 babies are born with a cleft lip and/or palate. In developed nations most babies receive surgery before they reach one year of age, but not in developing nations where most people either can’t find anyone who can perform the surgery, or they cannot afford to pay what the surgery would cost.
For 104 cleft lip and palate sufferers in Madagascar (most of them children, but not all) a free maxillofacial surgery onboard the hospital ship Africa Mercy means they no longer have to hide in shame and can now display their beautiful smiles for the entire world to see. Here we have a couple of examples:
Francinas’ mum has made a tremendous effort during the last 7 months to feed her baby who was not able to feed normally from her breast because of a cleft lip and palate. Francina was quite severely undernourished and both arrived at the ship exhausted after an 18 hour journey. After some weeks on a special feeding program Francina was finally able to have her lip and palate repaired and can now feed normally.
For twelve years Banay had to put up with the mocking and ridicule she received from those around her because of her physical deformity. It took her 2 whole days to travel to the ship from her home town of Mahajanga. Now with her newly repaired smile she can finally do the 2 things she has been waiting and wanting to do for a long time: 1) Swim in the sea, 2) Go to school for the very first time!!!