Monrovia – Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft-focused organization, and Scottish Charity Kids Operating Room (KidsOR) have today opened doors to a newly refurbished pediatric theatre at The John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Monrovia, Liberia.
The theatre has brightly colored walls with pristine surgical and anaesthesia equipment, ample lighting, and artistic features on walls which offer optical easement to children and adults alike, a welcomed distraction from the unsettling atmosphere of an operating room. This refreshing look would serve the approximately 1.3 million people in the capital city.
First Lady of the Republic of Liberia Lady Clar Marie Duncan-Weah was in attendance and expressed delight at the facelift of the theatre: “The Liberian Government has long prioritized uplifting maternal and child health service delivery. We are deeply touched by the marvelous transformation that Smile Train and KidsOR have made to the country’s largest referral hospital which can now administer quality surgical care to children in a space that makes them feel valued and cared for.”
Smile Train Senior Program Manager West Africa Victoria Awazie underscored her organization’s commitment to enhancing quality surgical care reaching the most underserved communities saying: “The John F. Kennedy Medical Center receives on average three to five children with clefts in need of life-changing surgery, and an average of 15-20 children in need of surgeries for other paediatric surgical conditions every week. Our highest priority in treating children is their safety. The theatre we have refurbished in partnership with KidsOR will ensure all children in need of safe, timely and quality surgery receive the highest standards of treatment.”
Kids Operating Room Regional Director for Africa Rosemary Mugwe highlighted that the partnership seeks to address the glaring gaps in low-to-middle-income countries that require better infrastructure to provide quality surgery: “Children make up about 50 percent of the population in LMICs; as such, dedicated pediatric theatres like this one improve health-care system and capacity for the provision of quality safe surgery for children. This theatre is a huge milestone in meeting the needs of the children of Liberia and we couldn’t be prouder of this achievement.”
Africa has the youngest population in the world, and the continent’s overall population is set to grow exponentially by 2050. Research indicates that 85 percent of children in Africa require some form of surgery by their 15th birthday.
The long-term collaboration between Smile Train and Kids Operating Room has continued to innovate and invest in strengthening surgical and anaesthesia care in order to reach the last-mile patients in Africa since 2020. The charities have installed 16 life-transforming pediatric theatres in 10 countries, with a vision of treating more than 12,000 children over the next five years.
The Smile Train-KidsOR partnership is also supporting a pediatric surgery scholarship for the training and education of 40 paediatric surgeons across Africa in partnership with the West African College of Surgeons (WACS) and the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA).
Further, to tackle the dual challenge of unsustainable power supply to theatres in Africa while reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions, Smile Train and KidsOR will begin implementing stand-alone solar battery support systems in pediatric operating rooms in Africa in 2023, with the first hospitals currently being identified.
Smile Train empowers local medical professionals with training, funding, and resources to provide free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children globally. We advance a sustainable solution and scalable global health model for cleft treatment, drastically improving children’s lives, including their ability to eat, breathe, speak, and ultimately thrive. To learn more about how Smile Train’s sustainable approach means donations have both an immediate and long-term impact, please visit smiletrain.org.
Kids Operating Room is a Scottish-based charity working globally to provide paediatric Operating Rooms in hospitals and safe equipment to surgeons. KidsOR also funds training of surgeons and anaesthesia providers and works with National Ministries of Health to develop sustainable healthcare services. Working across Africa and Latin America KidsOR has installed close to 50 Operating Rooms and provided over 45,000 children with access to emergency lifesaving and life-changing surgery.