Sharing knowhow and joining forces towards Health for All
Contribution to the Annual Report 2012 of the MMI Network

The Sweet Smile of Alexandra

photo (c) mergenza Sorrisi – Doctors for Smiling Children
photo (c) mergenza Sorrisi – Doctors for Smiling Children

In October 2012 Emergenza Sorrisi – Doctors for Smiling Children N.G.O. and N.P.O. (formerly Smile Train Italia) has completed a humanitarian project to give joy to smile to a 3 years old Ukrainian child called Alexandra.

In the world thousands of children cannot smile because of cleft lip and palate (CLP), a malformation that in the world’s poorest countries affects about one child in every 700 births. Cleft lip and palate is an orofacial birth defect in which there is an opening in the lip and/or palate (roof of the mouth) that is caused by incomplete development during early fetal formation. This kind of malformation disfigures the faces of babies and children who are affected, resulting in difficulty also in nutrition, problems with speech and often also a serious social problems caused by the isolation and marginalization to which local cultures condemn these little ones.

In July 2012, the grandmother of Alexandra, who lives in Rome (Italy), went to the office of Emergenza Sorrisi – Doctors for Smiling Children, looking for support and a helping hand to operate his little granddaughter, Alexandra, who lives with her mother in Lutsk, a city in northwestern Ukraine, and who is suffering since her birth by cleft palate.

Collecting all the needed documentation to be submitted to the Embassy to get the visa for medical treatment, the staff of Emergenza Sorrisi – Doctors for Smiling Children organized the trip to Italy for Alexandra and her mother in October 2012.

Upon their arrival the baby was admitted to the hospital in Rome "San Pietro Fatebenefratelli" where she was operated on the following day by Dr. Fabio Massimo Abenavoli, President of the association. The surgery was successfully performed and then Alexandra was hospitalized for three days in the Operative Unit of Pediatric Surgery where she and her mother were supported and helped by all the hospital staff and the team of association.

This humanitarian project has been made possible thanks to the great support and donation received by a supporter of Emergenza Sorrisi – Doctors for Smiling Children, who became aware of the appeal of the Alexandra’s grandmother and took this story personally.

The supporter has remained close to Alexandra’s mother, grandmother and the baby for the all duration of their stay in Italy giving Alexandra toys and especially clothes, and giving love and affection to the mother of the little baby who did not speak Italian and had many difficulties to understand and relate to. But with the love of our supporter the understanding in gestures and looks came instinctive and spontaneous. Actually Alexandra returned home, she now plays happy and she smiles to her future.

Besides this humanitarian project, during 2012, Emergenza Sorrisi – Doctors for Smiling Children carried out many projects and humanitarian surgical missions giving back the smile to 1.931 children affected by malformations of the face, burns and other types of facial diseases.

Until now, the medical volunteers of Emergenza Sorrisi – Doctors for Smiling Children have offered their assistance and professionalism to doctors and professional figures of the visited countries such as Benin (Cotonou – National University Hospital CNHU), Gabon (Melene – Regional Hospital), Iraq (Nasiriyah – Imam Hussein Teaching Hospital), Indonesia (Tarakan – Public Hospital), Uganda (Gulu – Lacor Hospital), Iraqi Kurdistan (Erbil – Regional Hospital) treating facial malformations and even dental and eye problems and war burns.

During these surgical missions the medical volunteers of Emergenza Sorrisi – Doctors for Smiling Children have set up professional training courses addressed to surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses of the visited hospitals by providing them with new guidelines on plastic surgery, anesthesia and guidelines for pediatric basic life support.$

  • Authors: Fabio Massimo Abenavoli and Marta Romagnoli.
  • In 2013, Smile Train Italia changed its name and became Emergenza Sorrisi – Doctors for Smiling Children an Italian N.G.O. and N.P.O. who inherits and enhances the wealth of experience gained from Smile Train Italia in its five years of activity. More information:
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