The following information is provided to help answer some of the most commonly asked questions. If you require further assistance, please contact us on +971 2 6584790 or email info@operationsmileuae.ae

Cleft lip & cleft palate

Operation Smile medical programmes

Treating cleft conditions in the UAE

Supporting Operation Smile

Smile Ambassadors



What is a cleft lip and cleft palate?

A cleft is a gap in the mouth that didn't close during the early stages of pregnancy. As a result, children born with a cleft condition may have an opening in the lip or the roof of their mouth – or both. Children can have a unilateral cleft condition, meaning one side of their mouth is affected, or they can have a bilateral cleft condition where both sides of the mouth are affected.



How does Operation Smile differ in their approach to treating children with cleft conditions around the world?

Not every country or community around the world is the same. That's why we work with local medical professionals, governments, hospitals and other NGOs to create various models of surgical care. Together, we determine which solutions work best in order to reach as many children as possible wherever we work. And we’re going to keep doing this and refining our approach as we move forward. All with the goal to give the most effective surgical care to patients worldwide.

First and foremost, we bring the highest quality of care to every child, every time. We were the first cleft organisation to support the World Health Organization's Safe Surgery Saves Lives initiative. Our Global Standards of Care is our commitment to ensuring that every patient cared for by Operation Smile will benefit from the same sophisticated equipment, procedures and highly trained, credentialed medical professionals, no matter where they receive treatment.

What does it cost to provide a surgery for a child with a cleft condition?

As little as 880 AED helps provide surgery to a child with a cleft condition. This is possible thanks to the generous contributions of medical professionals who volunteer their time, as well as corporations that donate critical supplies and equipment necessary for safe surgery. This cost includes expenses incurred for essential medical team members to be at a medical mission, the expenses for additional required supplies and shipping cargo costs.

Do all surgeries cost 880AED?

Operation Smile conducts hundreds of medical missions in locations around the world. Every one of those locations is unique. Sometimes we have to import medical equipment and/or import medical expertise which can make providing free surgeries more costly.  We work with local medical professionals, governments, hospitals and other NGOs to create various models of surgical care. Together, we determine which solutions work best in order to reach as many children as possible wherever we work. We have the same goal: improve how surgical care is delivered while empowering local communities. As a result of these efforts, Operation Smile’s surgeries are performed by local medical professionals at a greatly reduced cost.



Do you do any work in the UAE to help people born with cleft conditions? 

Emirati Nationals are entitled to receive healthcare treatment funded by the UAE government which includes the provision of treatment for cleft conditions. Operation Smile UAE endeavors to assist expatriates who are unable to access treatment due to financial restrictions or lack of medical insurance coverage for cleft care.

I live in the UAE. Why have I never seen a child with a cleft here?

Children are born with clefts in the UAE too, just the same as in every country around the world. If the Cleft was repaired in infancy, you may never realise they had a cleft. In some instances parents prefer to shield their child from unwanted attention due to their cleft condition and limit their exposure to family and friends until they can access cleft care.

Where can I get additional information?

If you would like additional information regarding cleft care in the UAE, please contact us on +971 2 6584790 or email patients@operationsmileuae.ae




Why should I support Operation Smile?

Children around the world born with cleft lips and cleft palates have been waiting their whole lives for our help. Your support helps us make a lasting difference to the lives of children, families and communities around the world.

We have over 30 years’ experience in mobilising medical professionals from all over the world to treat children with facial deformities. We bring together the latest, most effective practices and training to deliver safe surgery and the impact of our work is lasting. We leave behind a legacy of trained medical staff, surgical equipment and professional partnerships that work year-round to ensure more children are healed and more lives are changed.

Do you receive any government funding?

We do not receive any government funding and our work is only made possible because of the support we get from our generous supporters.

Can I donate to a specific project/country?

While we are very grateful for any donations we receive, we prefer that funds are unrestricted. This enables us to send money to where it is needed the most and helps to keep administration costs low.

If you would like to fundraise for a specific issue or country we can, of course, usually accommodate this. Please call us on +971 2 6584790 and we will happily discuss the options available with you.

Can I support a particular child and is there any way to stay in touch with them?

Operation Smile's goal is to provide life-changing surgery for children suffering from cleft lips and cleft palates and we have chosen to focus on the delivery of free surgery to children. The costs of administration when matching a donor with a child are high especially when tracking and following individuals over an extended period of time.

We are committed to helping as many children as possible and regularly capture pictures and stories as part of our post-operative programme when we check on the progress of children in the year following their surgery. We will regularly share these stories and images with supporters so they can feel connected to the children whose lives they have helped transform.

Do you comply with UAE laws for charitable activities?

Operation Smile UAE complies with the requirements set by the ‘Ministry of Community Development’ for fundraising activities. Our registration with the Ministry enables Operation Smile UAE to organise fundraising campaigns and events, awareness initiatives and volunteer recruitment drives as well as receive direct donations in 6 of the 7 Emirates in the UAE. Dubai requires additional licensing and permissions for charities to conduct various activities. Therefore Operation Smile’s ability to organize initiatives or assist interested supporters in the Emirate of Dubai is subject to the obtaining of relevant approvals and procuring a partnership agreement with one of Dubai’s approved Charities. If you have any questions about licensing or approvals, please contact +971 50 2293494 or email morag@operationsmileuae.ae



I see that Operation Smile has celebrity ambassadors. Does my gift help pay for celebrity "endorsers"?

Our Smile Ambassadors not only bring awareness to our cause but they do it from the heart. The celebrities that support Operation Smile are not paid. In addition, many have participated on medical projects and made financial contributions.



“Every child that has a facial deformity is our responsibility. If we don’t take care of that child, there’s no guarantee that anyone else will.”

- Kathy Magee, Operation Smile Co-founder and President