The Philippines has a population of around 101 million people, with approximately 2.5 million births each year. The country has an incidence of cleft lip, with or without cleft palate of approximately 1 in 500 births (compared with around 1 per 1000 live births in most Caucasian populations).
There are approximately 5000 children born with cleft lip and palate each year in the Philippines.
Very few families can afford to pay to have surgery performed on their children. International missions, including ORAL treat around 3000 children each year. It is estimated that there are up to 80 000 untreated cleft patients in the Philippines.
The impact of having corrective surgery for cleft lip and palate on individual, their family and their community cannot be overemphasised. Until their lips are repaired, many of these children are not allowed to go to school, become ostracised and sometimes treated as monsters. These children often remain illiterate and are destined to remain social outcasts.
They sometimes cover their faces with their hands or fabric to hide their sense of shame. In some remote rural communities, the superstitious and cultural belief is that the condition is caused by the mother being cursed by a buffalo (Carabou) during pregnancy.
Without surgery, affected adults are often destined to remain single. The psychological effect of their physical deformities is immeasurable.