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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Children given free cleft palate surgery in Abu Dhabi

The surgeries were organised by Operation Smile UAE and were performed at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi last weekend.

Ismail Mohammed holds his eleven-year-old Fatima Mohammed who was among the children who was given a free operation to fix the large gap in her lip and palate and her uneven jaw. Wam
Ismail Mohammed holds his eleven-year-old Fatima Mohammed who was among the children who was given a free operation to fix the large gap in her lip and palate and her uneven jaw. Wam

Twenty children received life-changing surgery from a charity that provides free operations internationally for people suffering from cleft lips and palates.

The surgeries were organised by Operation Smile UAE and were performed at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi last weekend.

Almost 200 Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi staff members responded to an appeal for volunteers, more than double the number needed.

“From the first time we came to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, we were overwhelmed by the offers of help. It’s been really heart-warming,” said Morag Cromey-Hawke, executive director of Operation Smile in the UAE.

“Everyone we came across from management downward wanted to get involved to the extent that we have almost more support than we can use.”

Eleven-year-old Fatima Mohammed was among the children who received a free operation to fix the large gap in her lip and palate and her uneven jaw.

"My daughter had the longest operation. It was five hours long," said her father, Ismail Mohammed, who was by her side during the surgery on Friday.

"My daughter suffered her whole life and did not have a childhood like other children. She refused to leave the house because people would stare and make fun of her," he said.

Earning Dh4,000 a month as a PRO, Fatima’s father cannot afford to send her to school.

"They told me that Fatima needs a special school and I can’t afford these schools," Mr Mohammed said.

Mr Mohammed, 50, is a father of eight. He was born in Al Ain but holds Pakistani citizenship.

"I was born and lived my entire life in the UAE. My father came here when he was young and I’ve been to Pakistan only twice in my life. The UAE is our home," he said.

After the surgery — which Mr Mohammed says he could never have been able to afford for his daughter — Fatima feels more confident. She is smiling, her father said, but her chances of going to school are still limited.

"She still needs a special school to help her with pronunciation," he said.

Operation Smile UAE (OSUAE) was established in January 2011 under the patronage of Sheikha Aljazia bint Saif bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, wife of Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

The charity provides cleft lip and cleft palate repair surgeries for children and adults worldwide.

While the foundation has supported operations around the world, this is the first time it has organised surgeries at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

“Being able to use a facility like Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi for our mission will be an absolute dream for our patients and our volunteers,” said Ms Cromey-Hawke.

salnuwais@thenational.ae