Patience Rewarded With New Smiles

Dr. Ashraf with a group of Smile Train patients from Djibouti after their free cleft surgeries.

Dr. Ashraf with a group of Smile Train patients from Djibouti after their free cleft surgeries.

Djibouti, Djibouti— When Smile Train East Africa Manager, Dr. Esther Njoroge visited Djibouti in February, she was not sure what to find. The tiny country’s lone Smile Train partner Al Rahma Hospital had been dormant for almost two years. Determined to revive the hospital’s Smile Train program, Dr. Njoroge decided she needed to visit the partner. This would be her first visit and what she found more than pleasantly surprised her.

When Dr. Njoroge arrived at Al Rahma Hospital located in Djibouti’s capital, also named Djibouti, she was met by a very warm and welcoming staff, as well as an impeccable hospital serving the poor community of the country. Located on the Horn of Africa neighboring Somalia to the southeast and Ethiopia to the southwest, Djibouti is one of the smallest countries in the world. Of its population of 900,000, 40 percent live on less than two dollars per day.

During the time that Dr. Njoroge had thought the hospital had suspended their Smile Train program, the staff had actually mobilized 45 cleft patients to receive free Smile Train surgeries. For a country with little more than 20 estimated cleft births each year, this was an impressive total.  “What do we do with these patients?” the staff asked. Their previous surgeon had left, but the staff at the hospital knew they needed to help these patients.

Dr. Njoroge quickly got in touch with an Egyptian surgeon living and working in Kenya, Dr. Ashraf Emarah. He agreed to not only visit to provide cleft surgery, but also provide cleft surgery training to another surgeon at the hospital eager to learn. On March 15th, less than a month after Dr. Njoroge called him, Dr. Ashraf made his way to Djibouti. During his two-week stay each one of the 45 cleft patients who had been waiting received free surgery, plus another, for a total of 46 new smiles!

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