CEBU CITY — Poverty prevented the parents of Baby Christian, a four-year-old born with a cleft palate, to have their son undergo operation to repair his lips’ deformity.

The baby’s parents, however, found hope in "Operation Smile," a yearly mission done every February, aimed at providing free surgery nationwide for children with cleft palate deformities and other facial impairments.

On February 26 to March 2, hundreds of children, including Baby Christian, with cleft palate and other facial impairments will be operated under the "Operation Smile" mission that has given smiles to about 2,1258 patients since it started ten years ago.

Spearheaded by the Mariquita Salimbangon Yeung (MSY) Foundation, Inc., a charitable institution in Cebu, Operation Smile will launched free surgery in the cities of Cebu, Manila, Bacolod, and Davao.

During the weekly Kapihan sa PIA yesterday, Ramona Aliño, executive director of the MSY Foundation, Inc., said 500 out of 10,000 newly-born babies in Asia are born with cleft palate defects compared with only about 100 in Europe and the US.

Dr. Vivina Chiu, chairman of the medical advisory board of the MSY Fndn. cited genetics or heredity as one of the main factors of cleft palate deformities aside from poor nutrition, environment, and iodine deficiency.

Chiu encouraged those suffering from cleft palate impairments to proceed to the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) on February 23 and 24 for the screening to determine their eligibility for surgery.

A simple cleft lip operation is expected to cost around P60 thousand while an indigent’s price is about P30 thousand.

The MSY Foundation shells out about P1.5M for the annual expenses that cover primarily the transport and accommodation costs for the medical volunteers from across the country and some from abroad.

About 33 foreign volunteers will be participating in the forthcoming mission consisting of surgeons and nurses, who will complement the local plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists and other medical professional from across the country.

Chiu said there are already 300 registrants to the upcoming mission. The process for screening includes the lab results of the complete blood count (CBC) and the urine, weight and temperature, Chiu added.