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January 23, 2010

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US charity aims to end cleft palates by 2014

The Smile Train, a United States-based charity, said yesterday that it would repair all cleft lips and palates in China by 2014.

"We'll continue to finance free surgery for children from low-income Chinese families, and hope China will become the first developing country with no cleft lip and palate disease within five years," said Charles Wang, co-founder of The Smile Train, in Lanzhou, capital of northwest China's Gansu Province.

The Smile Train has offered free surgery to 3,745 children in Gansu since its program was launched in the province in April 2008.

At least 10,000 children in Gansu are still waiting for surgery.

China has 2.4 million children with cleft palates and about 25,000 babies are born with the ailment each year, according to the Ministry of Health.

The surgery costs several thousand yuan, hardly affordable for rural families struggling on a meager annual income of 3,000 yuan (US$441).

By the end of last year, The Smile Train had worked with 397 Chinese hospitals and offered free surgery to almost 190,000 patients in China.

Initiated in 1997, The Smile Train aims to fund surgery for people aged up to 40 who are from poor families and suffer from cleft lips and palates in developing countries.


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