A charity organization called "Operation Smile" has helped 8,205 Chinese children with cleft palates "regain their smile" through free plastic surgery, according to the organization.
China has 2.5 million people born with cleft lips or cleft palates. Nearly 40,000 babies are born with cleft lips or palates each year, international research figures show.
Many children miss the prime time for the surgery which is right after birth. The operation takes only 45 minutes.
Founded in 1982 by an American couple, the Operation Smile has cooperated with hospitals in 20 Chinese cities since 1991.
A total of 13,250 Chinese children have received medical examinations and treatment so far, according to Han Kai, chief director of the organization in China.
World renowned Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan is the publicity ambassador of the organization.
Cleft palates can be caused by hereditary and environmental factors. The plastic surgery should to be done from 10 days to three months after birth, said doctor Ma Haihuan with the Sino-Japanese Friendship Hospital.
However, many families miss the best time and some poor families can not afford the expense.
In Beijing, the comparatively easier plastic surgery for cleft lips costs 6,000 yuan (US$750), and a baby with both cleft lips and palates need 20,000 to 30,000 yuan (US$2,500 to 3,750).
Another American charity organization operating in China called "the Smile Train" has been working with the China Charity Federation since 1999 to provide free plastic surgery to more than 80,000 Chinese children.
(Xinhua News Agency October 6, 2006)