World Health Day marks the launch of an unprecedented youth-driven campaign to advocate for a healthcare issue which few people in the U.S. recognize, the global need for access to safe surgery. According to a 2015 report, five billion people worldwide lack access to safe, effective surgery. The lack of access results in more deaths than HIV, tuberculosis and malaria combined, but it receives far less attention and funding.
“A couple of years ago, I was hospitalized for a week and that experience made me realize how lucky I was to get care when I needed it,” said 17-year-old Olivia Waaben from Lawrenceville, New Jersey. “Through Operation Smile, I have learned that surgeries, like operations to fix a cleft, are not available for billions of people and I felt motivated to do something.” Olivia and Sklyer Troast, both juniors from different high schools in New Jersey, are joining forces to organize a statewide UNTIL WE HEAL Day to support the effort.
Led by Operation Smile student volunteers, UNTIL WE HEAL is the first-of-its-kind campaign to inspire and engage young people to advocate for other children who do not have access to safe surgical care that could save their lives. “Operation Smile believes that safe surgical care is a universal human right, and we are doing our part to address the problem by providing safe and effective cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries around the world, training doctors and providing medical equipment and resources,” said Kathy Magee, co-founder and president of Operation Smile.
Operation Smile is an international medical charity that has provided hundreds of thousands of free surgeries for children and young adults in developing countries who are born with cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial deformities. For more information, visit www.operationsmile.org.