The project will create awareness about treatment timelines and build referral networks for cleft affected children.
Mumbai, November 21st, 2023: Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft-focused NGO, and Bajaj Finserv, one of India’s foremost and diversified financial services groups, are set to fortify their association with the launch of ‘Maha Smiles – Cleft Care for Every Child’ initiative. This awareness led initiative will identify and offer timely treatment to underprivileged children affected by cleft conditions in Maharashtra. Child Health is one of the key focus areas for Bajaj Finserv’s social impact initiatives, and it has supported over 66,000 surgeries in the past nine years in collaboration with Smile Train. The new alliance aims to enhance comprehensive cleft care in Maharashtra by supporting approximately 8,000 cleft surgeries and creating awareness about the importance of early intervention and the timelines of cleft treatment.
In India, more than 35,000 babies are born with cleft lip and/or palate each year. Many of them do not receive treatment due to myths, misconceptions, or financial constraints. To address this, the project will take a dual approach. First, it will identify children in need of cleft care and provide timely surgeries through Smile Train’s network of hospitals. The second aspect involves increasing awareness and educating the public about cleft care. Smile Train will collaborate with healthcare professionals, social workers, AMOGS, pediatric associations, and grassroots organizations to establish a referral network for children with cleft lip and palate.
Mamta Carroll, Smile Train’s Senior Vice President & Regional Director for Asia expressed her gratitude towards Bajaj Finserv and its management for their dedicated interest in helping children with clefts. “Sustainable and equitable cleft treatment has been a priority for Smile Train. With the help of ‘Maha Smiles’, we aim to raise community awareness to all sections of society that cleft is a treatable facial anomaly and that children born with clefts can lead healthy and productive lives. Our partnership with Bajaj Finserv creates value and impact for cleft affected children who need it the most, enabling them to live healthy and full lives.” Mamta added.
Talking about the collaboration, Shefali Bajaj, Chairperson, CSR Steering Committee Bajaj Finserv, said, “A significant part of our CSR initiatives provides comprehensive healthcare for children, with cleft care being one of our primary focuses. The Maha Smiles initiative has been designed to create a sustainable model for cleft care, starting in specific areas of Maharashtra and then expanding to different regions of the state. This approach allows us to make a better impact. To achieve this, with the support of Smile Train, we will collaborate with various healthcare professionals and medical associations that work closely with the government and our beneficiaries’ ecosystem to raise awareness and facilitate more cleft surgeries. As we witness the successful outcomes, the same approach could be replicated in other states, making cleft care accessible to every child in need.”
Dr Nitin Mokal, Senior Plastic Surgeon and Smile Train Partner Doctor shared, “Project Maha Smiles represents a significant opportunity for children with clefts in Maharashtra. Timeliness of cleft care is essential for children to get optimal benefit from treatment. Enhancing the capabilities of medical professionals is crucial for early detection and initiation of cleft treatment and this initiative is set to equip frontline workers with the necessary knowledge and training, bridging the critical gap between birth and primary treatment of cleft affected children.”
To access free and timely cleft care, cleft-affected families across the country can reach out to Smile Train’s toll-free cleft helpline at 1800 103 8301. This helpline offers information and support to those in need.