Mogadishu, this is how Italian surgeons gave a smile back to 42 children

In the operating room in Mogadishu to restore a smile (and a future) to the most unfortunate children: from July 1 to 5, the medical team of Italian volunteers from “Emergenza sorrisi” radically changed the lives of 42 Somali children suffering from congenital malformations, such as cleft lip and cleft palate, or disfigured by burns and war wounds.
The mission was scheduled for last January, but was postponed at the last minute due to security concerns. And in these five months alone, five young patients have died. “These malformations,” the non-profit organization’s founder and president, plastic surgeon Fabio Massimo Abenavoli, explained to the newspaper L’Avvenire, “in fact, in addition to causing stigmatization and marginalization of the patients, they also cause nutritional difficulties that can be fatal.”
The children were selected by “Emergenza sorrisi’s” local partner, the “Aden Abdulle” foundation, and operated on free of charge by a team consisting of Abenavoli himself, Palermo surgeon Raffaele Vitale and Massese anesthesiologist Stefano Antonelli, assisted by nurses Roberta Bondi, Francesca Paris and Claudia Fassin.
The team was coordinated by Francesca Romana Pacelli, and young Somali surgeons also participated in the surgeries for training purposes. The mission was funded thanks to the Baptist Church’s 8xmille grant and the AICS project for strengthening medical and health resilience in Somalia, in collaboration with the Italian Embassy in Mogadishu.

Active in 23 countries thanks to 375 volunteer doctors and nurses who, in 14 years, have already given a new smile to more than 5,200 children and trained 577 local surgeons and nurses, “Emergenza Sorrisi” is in its third experience in Somalia, again with the support of AICS. The families of the young patients, many of whom come from the poorest areas of the country, would never have been able to pay for the surgery: in fact, Somalia is at the bottom of the world rankings for wealth indicators and about half the population lives on less than a dollar a day. Satisfied, Dr. Abenavoli: “We have brought our contribution to strengthening local health care, despite the country’s difficulties. Operating on these children means offering them a way out and a true rebirth.”


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