Smile Train Shines Light on Untreated Clefts at the United Nations

October 17, 2018 | Smile Train

The G4 Alliance recently hosted a luncheon event at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, in partnership with Smile Train, the Ministry of Health of Kenya, the Henry Family Advised Fund, Jhpiego, and the Global First Ladies Alliance, to bring much-needed international attention to the backlog of children around the world living with treatable surgical issues.

Smile Train staff an UN campus

Since the audience included many UN delegates in town for the 73rd General Assembly, the event was a unique opportunity for Smile Train, and the other organizations, to educate officials who create country-level health policy about global neglected surgical diseases, including cleft lip and palate.

Miss Universe speaking at UN

Former Ambassador of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago to the United States Dr. Neil Parsan introduced Miss Universe 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, who spoke to the packed room about her experiences as a Smile Train Ambassador. Demi shared heartbreaking stories from her visit to Smile Train partners in Mexico, where she met cleft patients and their families who were unable to afford cleft surgery without Smile Train’s assistance.

Smile Train staff on panel at UN

Next, Smile Train’s Vice President & Regional Director of Africa, Dr. Esther Njoroge, was featured in a panel discussion where she shared Smile Train’s sustainable model of training local medical professionals to treat patients in their own communities and supporting partner hospitals through funding, equipment, and capacity building.

Dr. Njoroge shared information with attendees about Smile Train’s impact, citing a peer-reviewed economic impact study that analyzed the value gained from treating cleft lip and palate. The study concluded that the investment in surgery is more than made up by the economic losses avoided.

In the spirit of the event, Kenya’s Ambassador to the United States, Robinson Njeru Githae, announced the launch of an initiative to eradicate its backlog of untreated cleft lip and palate with help from Smile Train, the G4 Alliance, and the Henry Family Advised Fund. “The most important resource a country can have is its people. Our health workforce will help us achieve universal healthcare,” said Githae.

With the success of the meeting, the attendees hope to see positive changes in addressing the billions of people impacted by lack of access to surgical care. “We were thrilled that Smile Train could help lead this high-level UN event on addressing neglected surgical diseases, and to showcase the positive impact of our sustainable model on health systems,” says Erin Stieber, Smile Train’s Senior Vice President of Programs.

Ambassador Parsan stated after the event, “I believe there is no greater cause than to support neglected surgical patients around the world. Thank you, Smile Train, for your advocacy and action on global surgery. We need strong voices and universal engagement on this issue. Access to essential surgical care is a human right.”


If you would like to help us provide smiles and second chances at life to children waiting for access to surgical care for clefts, please make a gift today.