Over 2,000 children with cleft lips and palates at Children’s Hospital 1 in Ho Chi Minh City have received free surgery funded by Smile Train, a US non-governmental organisation, over the past five years.

Cleft lips and palates are facial and oral malformations that occur very early in pregnancy, while the baby is developing inside the mother. Clefting results when there is not enough tissue in the mouth or lip area, and the tissue that is available does not join together properly.

Most scientists believe that clefts are due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Another potential cause may be related to the medication a mother has taken during her pregnancy.

Statistics reveal that the malformations affect one in 1,000 babies in Asia and one in 700 in Vietnam.

Over the past five years, the US organisation has helped Children’s Hospital 1 conduct about six surgeries for children with cleft lips and palates each day.

The programme has also targeted hospitals in the southern province of Dong Nai and the central city of Da Nang.

Dr. Tang Chi Thuong, Deputy Director of the HCM City Department of Health, expressed his hope that the programme will come to remote and far-flung areas as well as those in difficulties to bring smiles to unlucky children.

The HCM City-based hospital has also opened a club named “Children’s smiles” which serves as a bridge for doctors and families of children with the condition.-VNA