Eradication in Honduras
Operation Smile Honduras announced the eradication of the backlog of people living with untreated cleft conditions at an event hosted by President Juan Orlando Hernandez and First Lady Ana Garcia de Hernandez. Operation Smile, Inc.’s Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Bill Magee attended the May 11 event, celebrating 20 years of providing free surgery and comprehensive cleft care in Honduras to more than 4,700 patients.
“Our goal in every country where we work is to ensure that every citizen with a cleft has access to care. We are thrilled to say we have achieved this goal in Honduras with support from incredible public and private partners, donors, and volunteers,” said Dr. Magee, who founded the international organization in 1982 with his wife Kathy. “Eradicating the backlog of people suffering from cleft is a testament to what can be achieved when we work together and use innovative approaches to help patients overcome barriers to care,” he added.
Since 1997, Operation Smile Honduras has made significant strides towards increasing access to safe surgery and tackling the backlog of untreated patients through medical missions in cities across the country. It is recommended that babies born with cleft receive corrective surgery within the first two years of life for the best recovery results. However, many low- and middle-income countries, like Honduras, have a backlog mostly due to the lack of access to safe, affordable and timely surgery leaving children to suffer with their cleft condition for much longer.
In 2014, Operation Smile Honduras set out to eradicate the backlog of an estimated 1,000 untreated cleft patients in Honduras. Today, the median age of patients that Operation Smile sees is within target age ranges for well-timed cleft surgery. As a result of the eradication strategy and innovative patient advocacy programmes, any child born with a cleft in Honduras can be connected to Operation Smile immediately to receive timely surgical care.
At the event, the president and first lady will officially announce their support for Operation Smile’s global UNTIL WE HEAL campaign to increase access to safe surgery in Honduras and put safe surgery on the global health agenda. The UNTIL WE HEAL campaign, first inspired by students, aims to mobilize new partners in government and civil society, to join in creating long-term solutions to increase access to safe surgery and eradicate cleft. The campaign invites citizens around the world to sign the UNTIL WE HEAL pledge to demonstrate to global leaders the overwhelming support for access to safe surgery. Operation Smile Honduras has joined the campaign along with other Operation Smile Foundation countries that are engaging their ministries of health and collecting thousands of signatures from supporters throughout the year.
Moving forward, Operation Smile Honduras will continue to provide training and education to increase surgical capacity in the country. The organization has already trained nearly 300 local health workers. This year, plans are underway to renovate the care center in Tegucigalpa, where local medical volunteers offer year-round comprehensive cleft care including surgery, post-operative care, dental and orthodontics care, pediatrics care, speech therapy, audiology, and psychology consultations.