Yangon, Myanmar — Today, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton concluded her landmark visit to Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) amidst burgeoning hope that democracy can take hold in the impoverished nation and the announcement of a ceasefire with one of the country’s main rebel groups. These encouraging events come on the heels of the largest Smile Train program in Myanmar to date — offering hope to thousands of desperate children with unrepaired clefts.
From November 13 – 22, Smile Train partners from India accompanied Smile Train Country Regional Managers Som Chunharas and Dr. Ashish Sabhararwal to Myanmar in a continuation of Smile Train’s STOP Cleft program. Led by Dr. Jyotsna Murthy, the team from Sri Ramachandra University in Chennai consisted of 2 surgeons, 3 anestheologists and 7 nurses. The team worked with the three current local Yangon Smile Train partners to not only provide free cleft surgery to poor patients in the cities of Yangon and Naypyitaw, but to identify more potential Smile Train partner hospitals and provide surgical training to local surgeons and medical professionals.
The STOP Clefts team completed 91 free cleft surgeries.
While local surgeon Professor Ko Ko Maung and the India team completed 91 free cleft surgeries at two hospitals, Som and Ashish met with local hospital officials throughout numerous cities about their cleft programs and Smile Train. They identified four hospitals that currently perform cleft surgeries. Pending approval of the Ministry of Health, Mandalay General Hospital, Yangon General Hospital, Naypyitaw General Hospital and Tun Hospital in Toengy will enter the preliminary stages of full Smile Train partnership.
The STOP Clefts program concluded with a 2 day medical training intensive in Yangon for surgeons and anesthesiologists. More than 20 young and upcoming doctors attended the events, adding to the framework for future Smile Train partners. The STOP Clefts program is currently planning the follow up visit to Myanmar for further education and development of the new partner hospitals. Aside from the 91 free surgeries the team provided, they estimated that with the training programs and new partners, Smile Train will be able to provide an additional 500 surgeries on top of previous goals next year in Myanmar and continue to expand more each year.