Frequently Asked Questions
Operation Cleft provides free cleft lip and cleft palate repair surgery for underprivileged children in Bangladesh. We “Gift a Smile for Life”.
- Bangladesh is a developing nation of over 165 million people with around 40% living on or below the poverty line.
- Approximately 300,000 people are living with an untreated cleft lip or cleft palate in Bangladesh.
- More than 5,000 children are born with a cleft lip or cleft palate each year.
- Surgical repair of clefts is not covered under Bangladesh’s public healthcare system.
- For a low-income family, the normal cost of a repair operation (around 60,000 taka or A$820) is unaffordable as it is more than their annual income.
What are the effects of an untreated cleft?
- Most babies born with a cleft condition have difficulty feeding and may suffer malnutrition.
- This condition often leads to the weakening of the immune system and frequently results in higher infant mortality (12% of children with untreated clefts die before the age of five).
- Many of these children will suffer from social isolation, depression, malnutrition, and ear, nose and throat infections.
- Most do not attend school as they are so ostracized and discouraged by the school system, and their lack of education perpetuates the poverty cycle.
What causes clefts?
- Cleft lips or cleft palates are frequently occurring congenital abnormalities.
- On average, about one in every 500 to 800 babies born in the world will be born with a cleft condition.
- There is some evidence that environmental factors during early stages of pregnancy may play a role, as well as infection, lack of adequate nutrition or exposure to certain chemicals.
- Cleft lip and cleft palate together are more prevalent in males, while cleft palate only is more prevalent in females.
How do we go about repair surgery?
- Operation Cleft contracts the services of highly-qualified Bangladeshi plastic surgeons to undertake cleft repairs. All have Australian, British or American specialist surgical qualifications (FRCS or FRACS). Many have also undertaken further specialised training in the USA and Europe.
- Surgeons are contracted to undertake an annual quota of operations. These operations are performed at the hospital(s) where they are residents, or through our surgical outreach program of “mini” surgical camps. Most of our surgeons, being leaders in their field, also consult at hospitals across Bangladesh. Mini camps provide a unique opportunity for our surgeons to train interns at facilities where there is no resident plastic surgeon.
- Our team conduct cleft operations at Hospitals widely dispersed throughout Bangladesh.
- To ensure the integrity of the project surgeons are required to provide information on the hospital facilities at which they intend to operate before we authorise their use – a limited form of hospital accreditation. Hospitals used for Operation Cleft project surgery must meet the minimum standards criteria prescribed by our surgical program.
- By using local surgeons and not flying in surgical teams, we have been able to minimize the costs of surgery. And the lower the cost, the more children we can help.
- Operation Cleft never flies surgical teams into Bangladesh or patients out of the country for treatment.
What is the cost?
- In partnership with our team of local Bangladesh surgeons, Operation Cleft has negotiated a comprehensive price of A$300 per operation. This includes surgeons, assistant and anesthetist’s fees, sutures and other consumables, operating theatre costs (including nursing and other staff), hospital ward charges, pharmacy and diagnostic expenses such as X-rays and blood tests.
- This cost is around a third of the normal cost of such an operation in Bangladesh of around A$820.
What have we achieved to date?
- Through the generous support of Rotary Clubs, other clubs, organizations, businesses and individuals, we have conducted over 12,000 cleft repair surgeries since inception in 2005.
- We plan to conduct 1,000 operations each year.
What approvals do we have?
- The project maintains ongoing approval from Government of Bangladesh’s NGO Affairs Bureau.
- It is a Bangladesh government condition for approval to work in that country that the project is implemented by a local non-government organisation. Further, that Operation Cleft must submit or re-submit on a three-yearly basis, a detailed operational budget to the NGO Affairs Bureau for approval. Operations Cleft’s work in Bangladesh meets these requirements.
- Operation Cleft Australia Foundation is a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
Is cleft repair surgery the only focus?
- While our primary focus is on early surgical intervention for cleft repairs, the project has other objectives.
- The surgical training component of Operation Cleft is very important as the number of qualified plastic surgeons in Bangladesh is still very limited. The highly qualified Operation Cleft surgeons often perform operations at mini camps over two to three days in hospitals where there is no resident plastic surgeon. In the process they provide registrars at those facilities hands-on training in cleft lip and palate repair surgery, as well as in cause and effect and postoperative follow-up requirements.
- Education programs on the cause, effect and treatment of clefts are provided to community health workers and parents.
- Work continues on the development of speech therapy programs following cleft repair surgery
How did Operation Cleft start?
- Operation Cleft began in 2005 as a project of the Rotary Club of Box Hill Central in conjunction with the Glencoe Foundation with 60 operations undertaken.
- The profound effect of photos of children before and after surgery was such that the Rotary Club decided to develop Operation Cleft as an ongoing project.
- In 2008 the Operation Cleft Australia Foundation was established as a not for profit charity to assume responsibility for the project.
- Operation Cleft remains a signature project of the Rotary Club of Box Hill Central, and all members of the Committee of Management are members of that Rotary Club.
Who is the Committee of Management?
- The Committee of Management consists of nine Rotarians. The current membership is listed on the Operation Cleft website: www.operationcleft.org.au
Where are our offices?
- In Australia, Operation Cleft has an office in Blackburn, Victoria which has been generously provided free of charge by Prospect Wines.
How is the Project managed?
- Operation Cleft employs a part-time Fundraising Executive Office, who is supported by a team of volunteers from the community and the Rotary Club of Box Hill Central.
- Oversight of the project is vested in the honorary Management Committee of Operation Cleft Australia Foundation who are all Rotarians and the majority are members of the Rotary Club of Box Hill Central.
- Accounting is undertaken by a Rotarian on a voluntary basis.
- The annual audit is carried out by McPhail and Partners, who donate their fee back to the organisation each year.
- Operation Cleft and German Cleft (Deutsch Cleft Kinderhilfe) are working together to deliver a combined total of 1,500 surgeries per annum in Bangladesh.
- Administration in Bangladesh is undertaken by Syed Nuruddin Ahmed Development Foundation (SNADF), a not-for-profit non-political NGO registered with the Bangladesh NGO Affairs Bureau.
- The project has a team of dedicated supporters in Bangladesh under the leadership of our Bangladesh Patron, Asif Moyeen, Managing Director, Far East Knitting & Dyeing Industries Ltd. Bangladesh. These supporters continue to raise funds for the project and sponsor operations.
- The ongoing approval of the Government of Bangladesh NGO Affairs Bureau is essential for the project to continue to operate.
- Operation Cleft is an ancillary partner of Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS). All funds sent to Bangladesh for the project are transferred through RAWCS via the Rotary Australia Overseas Aid Fund.
- Operation Cleft has appointed a network of Ambassadors throughout Australia and overseas. These ambassadors promote Operation Cleft in their communities or Rotary District and encourage people to donate to the project.
- Donors are the lifeblood of the project. Without their support the project would not be possible. Rotary Clubs and Rotarians in Australia and overseas continue to be strong supporters of Operation Cleft, along with many community groups and individuals.
- A team of Volunteers undertake the processing of all donations to the project, assist with mail outs and many other administrative tasks.
- Operation Cleft Australia is a Public Ancillary Fund with DGR status. ABN 36 063 471 446
- Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible in Australia