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Operation Smile Australia Launches Ground-Breaking Mission in Bangladesh

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National not-for-profit medical organisation, Operation Smile Australia has unveiled a transformative healthcare program in Bangladesh to provide lifesaving surgeries for children with cleft lips and cleft palates. 

On March 6, 2024, a team of 27 Australian and New Zealand medical volunteers, including Operation Smile Australia Founder and prominent Surgeon, Dr Richard Lewandowski, will travel to Sirajganj Hospital, four hours northwest of Dhaka, to launch the program. 

Dr Lewandowski says an estimated 300,000 children in Bangladesh are living with untreated cleft conditions, with only 10 percent surviving to see their 20th birthday. 

“Our Bangladesh program has been created to incite positive and lasting change in the lives of children born with cleft conditions, ensuring that location is no barrier to receiving lifesaving health care,” said Dr Lewandowski. 

The program will incorporate free surgical care for vulnerable populations and a training program for local health professionals. 

“Over 10 days, medical volunteers will provide between 60-70 free cleft surgeries to children who lack access to healthcare services, addressing a critical gap in medical care for this vulnerable population, ”said Dr Richard Lewandowski. 

“Surgical intervention changes these children’s lives and improves their lifespans, reducing the risk of malnutrition and illness, and fostering greater education opportunities which many currently miss out on due to health complications and severe bullying.” 

Operation Smile Australia will empower and equip local healthcare workers to conduct surgical programs year-round, creating sustainable, ongoing solutions to address the needs of children with cleft conditions. 

Related: Australian politicians travel across Timor Sea to see impact of Australian aid in Indonesia

Operation Smile Australia’s Bangladesh program has been made possible through a collaboration with local partners Sirajganj Hospital and the Jamuna Bank Foundation. The combined effort from the global partners represents a commitment from all parties to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, of which health is a key focus. 

The groundbreaking initiative is generously supported by the Judith Neilson Foundation, a major funder committed to contributing $100,000 each year for the next three years. The Foundation’s support will enable Operation Smile Australia to continue to scale its operations in Bangladesh, supporting more vulnerable children each year. 

Operation Smile Australia Founder Dr Lewandowski says the organisation is proud to embark on this transformative journey with its esteemed partners, Sirajganj Hospital and the Jamuna Bank 

Foundation, along with the unwavering support of the Judith Neilson Foundation. 

“Together, we are taking a bold step towards creating lasting change in the lives of children with cleft conditions in Bangladesh,” said Dr Lewandowksi. 

Operation Smile Australia invites the community, supporters, and partners to join the organisation in its vision to bring smiles to the faces of children and create equitable healthcare access for all. 

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Menchie Khairuddin is a writer Deputy Content Manager at Akolade and content producer for Third Sector News. She is passionate about social affairs specifically in mixed, multicultural heritage and not-for-profit organisations.


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