UNTIL WE HEAL: Increasing Global Access to Safe Surgery

According to the Lancet Commission on Global Health, billions of people do not have access to safe surgery that is timely and affordable. As a result, easily treatable conditions like cleft lip and cleft palate, appendicitis, fractures, and breast cancer can become fatal.

The tragic truth is that more people die every year from lack of access to surgical care than from malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV combined.

From left to right: Operation Smile Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Bill Magee, Operation Smile Senior Executive Advisor Beth Marshall, and Chair of the Board of Directors of Operation Smile Honduras Ana Kafie pose with the First Lady of Honduras Ana Garcia de Hernandez and President Juan Orlando Hernandez at Operation Smile Honduras’ 20th anniversary celebration. (Source: Operation Smile)

Operation Smile is an international children’s medical charity that provides free, timely, surgical care for those suffering from cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities. Operation Smile increases surgical capacity and cleft treatment in resource-poor countries by providing local health care workers with medical equipment, supplies, education and training.

This year in honor of its 35th anniversary, Operation Smile has launched the UNTIL WE HEAL campaign, a global movement uniting like-minded advocates and global leaders to advance access to safe surgery for all people with cleft conditions. Many of the people who lack access to safe surgical care are the poorest in their countries and are excluded from care due to financial, structural and social barriers. The campaign 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.

Through the campaign, Operation Smile is calling on Ministries of Health and world leaders to advance efforts to increase access to essential surgery. In March, the Vice President of the Philippines committed to taking an active role in increasing access to surgical care in the most marginalized regions of the country. More recently, the President and First Lady of Honduras declared their support for the UNTIL WE HEAL campaign. Their endorsement came after the announcement by Operation Smile’s Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Bill Magee that the organization, in conjunction with strategic partners in Honduras, has successfully eradicated the backlog of patients awaiting cleft surgery in the country.

An Operation Smile volunteer in Fortaleza, Brazil, tends to a patient during a local UNTIL WE HEAL medical mission. (Source: Operation Smile)

Several of Operation Smile’s partners have already joined the UNTIL WE HEAL campaign and are mobilizing to increase access to safe surgery worldwide. Their contributions of medical supplies and training and education opportunities enable Operation Smile to provide the safest, highest-quality surgical care possible regardless of where a patient lives.

Last year, Operation Smile sent more than 93.5 tons of cargo worth more than $8.6 million in support of their international medical and educational programs in low-and middle-income countries around the world. Nearly 50 percent of the value of these supplies were in-kind product donations from companies like AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic and MöInlycke Health Care. Without their generous contributions, Operation Smile would not be able to serve patients with the level of dignity they deserve.

UNTIL WE HEAL invites citizens around the world to sign a pledge and demonstrate their support for global access to safe surgery. Visit www.UntilWeHeal.org to sign the pledge and learn more about how Operation Smile and its partners are increasing access to safe surgery around the world.