Niamey, Niger — A country that is nearly double the size of Texas, the landlocked Republic of Niger is over 80% desert. Niger has routinely placed amongst the lowest on the United Nations Human Development Index, a measure of life expectancy, literacy, education, and standards of living. Under these conditions, children born with cleft could never hope for their families to afford the surgery that could repair their clefts and give them the chance at a normal life. Fortunately, this past year, Niger officially became one of the countries in which Smile Train operates in. Among those helped by Smile Train in Niger is Ridouane Moussa, a one-year-old who will luckily never know the pain and isolation that can come with an unrepaired cleft.
Ridouane’s parents eagerly awaited the birth of their son, and were shocked when he was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. While they could not figure out what they had done to cause it, they knew that trying to assign blame to each other or their actions would accomplish nothing. The only thing that mattered was finding help for Ridouane.
For the first 12 months of Ridouane’s life, his father traveled from hospital to hospital searching to see if anything could be done for his son. While the hospitals told him that his son’s cleft could be fixed by surgery, his hope was always crushed when they told him how much the surgery would cost. In the meantime, Ridouane was having trouble feeding. Then one day, his father received good news from a source he never would have expected: a mechanic that had come through his village told him about an advertisement he saw for Smile Train partner CURE Hospital Niger.
It didn’t take long for Ridouane to show up in his father’s arms. Ridouane received free cleft lip surgery and will have his cleft palate repaired in the coming months. His father was ecstatic over his treatment and proudly brought Ridouane home to show off the first stage of his transformation. Shortly thereafter, he came back to the hospital — only this time, it was with another child from his village that had an unrepaired cleft. The child was enrolled for surgery and returned to the village with a bright new smile too.