COVID-19 FAQ As of April 1, 2020

How is the coronavirus impacting Operation Smile?

  • At Operation Smile, we know what “flattening the curve” is about.  For nearly 40 years, our supporters and volunteers have focused on decreasing the backlog of children and adults waiting for a cleft surgery or other care they need.
  • Today, while the world is focused on flattening the COVID-19 curve, Operation Smile is doing everything we can to build plans to keep our patients, volunteers and staff protected and healthy, and to support the local health systems where we our 6,000+ volunteers work.
  • Operation Smile continues to monitor information produced by international health agencies and global health experts, and consult with in-country executives, the local governments, health authorities, and hospitals to determine the latest impact to our scheduled programs.
  • While the world focuses on this pandemic, and hospitals where we work are focused on treating priority patients for COVID-19, all programs that include medical missions, education and training, and public activities in Operation Smile program countries have been temporarily paused. This includes patients coming into Operation Smile’s year-round care centres.
  • We are closely monitoring every part of our global operations and taking a case-by-case, country-by-country approach and do anticipate further postponements and cancellations through May and June.
  • We are in frequent contact with our program country offices to monitor this ever-evolving situation. The safety of our volunteers, patients and staff is of the utmost importance, and we are exercising caution in every decision.
  • We will do our best to reschedule care for our patients as soon as possible once program activities resume.
  • Our care centre teams are working remotely to keep patients and families connected via FaceTime and Skype and other means (see more points below).
  • It is important for you to know that the missions and care programs that have been postponed or cancelled that you have donated to will be rescheduled, and the children waiting will be receiving their care because of you, our valued partners in our work.
  • What we are doing now is raising the critical funds to address the thousands of children born during this crisis that will be needing surgery in the future. These children will join a larger backlog while we catch up with the COVID-19 caused backlog of delayed surgery and care.
  • We will also need to replenish and ship supplies – including PPE (personal, protective equipment) that have been diverted to local hospitals in need for the COVID-19 crisis.
  • We recognize that postponement of missions for any reason has a direct impact on patient care and for many parents, a longer time to worry about their child’s health.
  • Our global teams are reaching out to patients via all communication methods available, to alert them of our change in activity and to ensure they are well-supported with information and remote care if necessary.
  • Effective March 6, 2020, Operation Smile suspended all volunteers from traveling to all Operation Smile mission sites and from participating in our activities outside of their country of residence.
  • This directive remains in place while all programs and activities are temporarily paused and will be updated once program activities resume.
  • Here in Canada, our amazing healthcare heroes are caring for the sick here at home, and know that soon, they will be back serving children with cleft conditions.
  • We are staying in close contact with all our healthcare heroes and sending them messages of support and care.
  • As of today, all Operation Smile staff are also working virtually.
  • As a global organization with offices in 30+ countries in Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa, we are well-positioned to maintain communications and operations using video teleconferencing equipment and virtual meeting tools.
  • Effective March 6, 2020, Operation Smile suspended all global employees from traveling to Operation Smile mission sites and activities while they are

Are postponed/canceled missions and activities going to be re-scheduled when Operation Smile resumes regular activity?

Our global program teams are following prevailing national and local guidelines to inform our future planning. To date, we are uncertain of when we will be able to resume programs, but we are working closely with hospital partners and with governing authorities and will restart programming as soon as it is safe to do so.

Is Operation Smile still conducting any education and training programs?

  • For the time being, all programs to include medical missions, education and training, and public activities in Operation Smile program countries have been temporarily paused.
  • We are exploring ways to deploy our targeted education and training programs for health care workers virtually, using video conferencing and other technology as available.

Are volunteers and employees traveling internationally?

No. We have suspended all international volunteers and employees from traveling while all Operation Smile missions and activities are paused.

Have any Operation Smile employees, volunteers or patients been diagnosed or suspected of having the coronavirus?

Not currently. We continue to monitor the situation.

How has coronavirus impacted donations?

  • While we are confident our donor partners will continue to support the children and families we serve, we recognize that for many people, the challenges the pandemic presents are real and complex, and may impact their livelihoods.
  • We will continue to maximize every opportunity to raise funds necessary to sustain Operation Smile’s mission.
  • Our donors are our lifeblood, and while our medical missions may be paused at this time, every three minutes, another child is born with a cleft condition.  With our donor partners by our side, we will be prepared to tackle a larger backlog once we can resume our international and local missions and care centre work.
  • Please be assured that your donations are critical and greatly appreciated.

How is Operation Smile using donor contributions during this time?

  • The funds raised for medical missions will support those missions once they are rescheduled. And while our medical missions are temporarily paused, we are working at the program country level to use any and all communication methods that allow us to keep in contact with our patients and their families.
  • For example, our team in Nicaragua is using video conferencing and Facebook Live to contact patients.  Some speech therapists are using FaceTime to continue sessions for children.  Social workers continue to be in touch with families and reach out to new families.
  • We have worked hard to balance the responsibility we have to serve our patients and their families, with the need for safety at every level.
  • Additionally, we continue to assess how we can expand our activities in education and training during this challenging situation.
  • Your donations will help enable us to maintain our commitment to our patients we’ve put on hold and help us ensure thousands more being added to our wait lists right now will get the help they need as we ramp up activities post-pandemic.
  • With all our PPE (personal, protective equipment) and many supplies being rushed to battle COVID-19, we will need to purchase and restock to equip each mission.

How is Operation Smile supporting medical professionals on the frontlines during this pandemic both locally and globally?

  • Operation Smile is grateful to its 6,000 global medical volunteers who donate their time and talent to make our medical missions possible.
  • Today we are proud to say that many of these outstanding professionals are now part of the teams of healthcare workers on the frontlines fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in their respective countries.
  • To support them, many of our program countries including Vietnam, the Philippines, Morocco, Nicaragua and Guatemala are donating supplies to their local partner hospitals to help ease shortages.
  • Operation Smile’s global hub in Virginia Beach, Virginia, donated thousands of surgical masks and gloves to Sentara Princess Anne Hospital, one of the largest healthcare providers in that state. Hospital CEO Paul Gaden stated, “We are grateful as Operation Smile is a neighbor who stepped up to help the community. These donated supplies are much needed as we deal with this global health pandemic.”  The supplies were originally gifted to Operation Smile by two of its corporate partners, Ansell and Henry Schein, Inc.
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