We want to help thousands more children receive proper cleft treatment

Unfortunately, cleft is a relatively common condition and its impact can be devastating for both the child and their family. But cleft is also very treatable. Together, GSK and Smile Train can transform the lives of children born with this condition.

What is cleft?

A cleft occurs when certain body parts and structures, such as the lip or roof of the mouth, do not fuse together during fetal development. They are the main birth defect in many developing countries, where many communities are either unaware of a solution or unable to afford surgery.

Mother embrassing her dautgher

How common are clefts?

Globally, 1 in 700 children are born with a cleft lip, palate or both. Some experts say that the highest cleft rates are among Asians (approximately 1 in 500 births). Caucasians have an average rate of 1 in 700 births, and individuals of African descent have the lowest incidence of approximately 1 in 1,200 births.

Child playing with a ballon
Child having an operation

What are the causes of cleft lip and palate?

No one knows exactly, but most experts agree that many factors can cause cleft lip and/or palate. These can be genetic as well as environmental, such as drug and alcohol use, smoking, maternal illness, infections, or lack of folic acid. In most cases, the cause of a cleft lip and/or palate is unknown, but research is ongoing to better understand the condition.

How do untreated clefts affect children in developing countries?

Children with untreated clefts often face serious social and physical difficulties. They are frequently isolated, excluded socially, missing out on school and the chance to get jobs later in life. Clefts can also cause complications with eating, breathing, hearing and speaking. 

Girl standing next a wall

Can clefts be treated?

The good news is cleft reconstruction surgery has come a long way over the past 50 years. Today, the surgery is safe, inexpensive and can take as little as just 45 minutes to complete. The transformation is immediate. Patients see their smile for the first time, parents cry tears of joy and lives are changed forever.

Seeing such positive outcomes has made us even more committed to helping end the needless suffering of children and their families.

Woman holding a  patient