Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft-focused organisation, has pledged to enhance local cleft surgeries, invest in research and strengthen surgical systems in West Africa.
During the 63rd Annual Scientific Conference of the West African College of Surgeons – ‘Surgical Training and Education in West Africa’ – in Togo, the president and CEO of the organisation, Dr. Susannah Schaefer emphasised the need for collaboration between governments, NGOs and surgeons to achieve universal health coverage.
“NGOs and civil society, working with medical professionals and health systems, must advocate for and support policy development for the populations we serve,” she said.
Smile Train and WACS partnered in 2019 to develop a one-year course called the Smile Train-WACS Cleft Surgical Certification to improve the number and quality of cleft surgeons across in the region.
The second cohort of surgeons graduated during the conference, with the best scholar receiving the $10,000 Smile Train Best Cleft Surgery Scholar (post-fellowship) award.
Schaefer disclosed that: “Dr. Robert from Ghana and doctors Adebayo, Adeola, Oti, Yakubu and Yusuf from Nigeria make up the second cohort of cleft surgery scholars. They have completed their Post-Fellowship Cleft Certification and will launch cleft surgical programs in their home countries. The collaboration between Smile Train and WACS is occurring during a time of significant global investment in safe surgery and anaesthesia care”.
Smile Train said it plans to institutionalise the award to recognise academic excellence and stimulate motivation.
While congratulating Schaefer on her bestowment with an Honorary Fellow of WACS, Smile Train’s vice-president and regional director for Africa acknowledged the significant investment and sustainable impact Smile Train has made in developing and strengthening surgical resources across sub-Saharan Africa.
According to research, 1.7 billion children lack access to safe surgery, and more children aged between five and 14 die every year from surgically treatable injuries than malaria, HIV, and TB combined.
To strengthen surgical health systems, Smile Train is advocating for governments to prioritise their national surgical, obstetrics, and anaesthesia plans and is currently involved in implementing the NSOANP in Nigeria.
Smile Train has active cleft care programmes in 42 countries across Africa, with over 245 partners and 255 partner hospitals across the continent. The organisation has made strategic investments in education and training by collaborating with Scottish Charity KidsOR, the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA), as well as the West African College of Surgeons (WACS) to provide scholarships in various categories.
Recently, the organisation broke ground in Ghana for Africa’s first Cleft Leadership Centre, to build the capacity of cleft professionals to dispense global standards of care at the local level.