Operation Sourire

1 in 700

babies worldwide are born with a cleft lip and/or palate

80 %

of treated burns are the result of domestic accidents

13 000

patients have had surgery in 25 years of Opération Sourire


In many countries plastic surgery is quite simply not an option as it is either too expensive for most families or hospitals do not provide this service. Children born with a cleft lip and/or palate, people suffering the consequences of burn injuries or who have tumours or illness due to poverty can find themselves without access to medical care. On top of the physical trauma caused by their conditions, they are frequently stigmatised and marginalised.

  • Jean-Jacques, Madagascar

    Jean-Jacques, aged one and a half. Madagascar

    "When my son Jean-Jacques was born with a cleft palate, people said it was my fault because they were convinced I had cut up potatoes or jumped over streams when I was pregnant. In Madagascar these are believed to bring bad luck. But I know I didn't do anything wrong. Jean-Jacques can’t talk and he can't chew so I have to mash his food. I know that his malformation needs surgery but, with what we earn, we can't afford an operation." Dorcelle, his mother

  • Ateega, aged 25. Pakistan

    "When I was 18 years old, my husband's family tried to force me into prostitution. They threw acid over me when I refused to give in. My skin hasn’t healed properly because I couldn't go to the doctor. I can't lift my head properly and it's hard to open my mouth. My right hand got burned when I tried to protect myself and I can't move it at all."

What we do

In 1989, Doctors of the World initiated a unique humanitarian programme. Now set up in some twenty different Asian and African countries, the programme provides reconstructive surgery in places where people can’t have access to such services. Its beneficiaries are principally children, but women and men with congenital or acquired pathologies also receive treatment.

By restoring physical integrity to those forced into a shadowy and silent existence, we endeavour to change the way they are perceived by those around them.


Several times a year, teams of surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses volunteer a few days of their time to participate in this programme and provide treatment free of charge to as many patients as possible. Medical supplies and equipment are sent to the countries of intervention and our volunteers adapt to the conditions in the local health facilities.

Surgery mainly involves cleft lips and palates but we also treat burn injuries incurred during fire and acid attacks, tumours, meningocele and noma disease. Operation Sourire seeks to relieve pain and reduce sequelae while restoring harmony to faces and flexibility to impaired bodies.

… to bring back a smile 

Beyond the motor benefits afforded by the work of Operation Sourire’s teams, we also aim to foster the physical and social reintegration of our patients. By restoring physical integrity to those forced into a shadowy and silent existence, we endeavour to change the way they are perceived by those around them. Our objective is to enable children to enjoy a normal childhood and adults to reintegrate their communities. 

We work in close cooperation with local medical personnel and, thanks to the training and mentoring delivered by Operation Sourire’s teams of volunteers, host doctors, anaesthetists and nurses are provided with instruction in reconstructive surgery techniques.

Intervention location




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