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A young mother and her baby in Vietnam recently received transforming surgery to repair their cleft lips.

Children with cleft lips and cleft palates are frequently shunned and denied an education because of their appearance and speech impediments. Mothers who give birth to children with cleft lips and or cleft palates can be forced to leave the house, and the children can be barred from school and job opportunities. Kids with cleft palates are often chronically malnourished and underweight because the roofs of their mouths are not closed, making breast feeding and eating difficult. They also suffer dental and middle ear problems.

A cleft lip is a congenital anomaly that occurs when one or both sides of the upper lip fail to fuse. A cleft palate is also a congenital anomaly, found when of one or both sides of the roof of the mouth fail to fuse. The severity of cleft lip and cleft palate can range from a slight notch in the lip to a wide cavity in the upper lip, upper gum, and/or palate, extending into the nasal cavity. A variety of factors influence the development of cleft lip and cleft palate, which happens very early in pregnancy. Researchers continue to study the causes, but no one knows for sure why clefts happen.

Reconstructive surgery can successfully repair cleft lip and cleft palate. However, in many developing countries, where adequate medical care may not be available or affordable, it is common for people never to receive corrective surgeries. ReSurge has been working to repair their broken smiles since 1969 through reconstructive surgery, providing tens of thousands of children and their parents hope for a renewed and transformed life.

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