March 14, 2024 | 3 minute read

MedShare, Amazon, and Operation Smile Join Forces to Help Address Malnutrition in Children with Cleft Conditions

When MedShare Inventory Management Associate Tonya Richardson came across a large quantity of new, recently donated cleft palate nipples, she was disappointed to find that MedShare did not have bottles that paired with these specialized devices. So instead of simply putting the nipples into inventory, Tonya made it her mission to find a supply of the specific bottles needed to pair them with. “I was familiar with the nutrition challenges faced by children born with a cleft condition, and I simply felt compelled to help MedShare do whatever we possibly could to assist them in overcoming this barrier to their health,” explained Richardson.

Richardson then approached Director of Programs & Partnerships, Jason Chernock, to see if it would be possible to find both a partner who could fund the purchase of the bottles and a partner who could utilize this unique donation. He in turn reached out to MedShare partner Amazon, who somewhat quietly plays a key role in supporting initiatives that positively impact communities around the world, to see if they could assist with making this donation happen. “They were more than happy to collaborate – not only helping MedShare source the bottles, but they ultimately funded their purchase,” he added. Of course, Chernock already had a recipient in mind. “We had donated a small quantity of the cleft palate bottles to Operation Smile in the past, so they were a natural fit for this much more substantial donation,” he explained, “and they were thrilled.”

Globally, babies born with cleft lip and cleft palate often encounter feeding difficulties, leading to poor weight gain and malnutrition. In healthcare challenged countries, these basic but critical implements needed to feed these children are in short supply. Operation Smile estimates that there are more than 118,000 malnourished infants and children under five years old with cleft conditions globally. Shockingly, for every child identified in Operation Smile’s Nutrition Program, there are likely at least five others who remain undetected and untreated.

This collaboration will help address the unique feeding challenges faced by children with cleft conditions, promoting better nutrition and ultimately supporting their eligibility for life-changing surgeries. Among the most common birth defects globally, babies born with cleft lip and cleft palate often encounter feeding difficulties, leading to poor weight gain and malnutrition. This critical issue can hinder their ability to undergo necessary surgical interventions to repair the cleft conditions.

Charlotte Steppling, Director of Global Medical Education at Operation Smile, expressed excitement for the initiative, stating, “Our Nutrition Program has long been committed to addressing malnutrition in children with cleft conditions. The partnership with MedShare and Amazon enhances our ability to reach more children, providing them with the nutritional support necessary for their overall health and well-being.”

Operation Smile, a renowned international nonprofit organization, will spearhead the deployment of these specialized feeding solutions as part of their comprehensive health care program in 36 countries, helping to ensure that every child is fit to receive safe, timely and effective surgical care. “I am happy to report that the bottles for Madagascar and Malawi have already arrived, and our team will continue to facilitate the logistics for sending out the rest of the bottles over the next few months,” according to Ashley Myles, Senior Program Manager for Operation Smile.

This collaboration marks a significant step forward in addressing the global health disparity affecting children with cleft conditions. By enhancing access to specialized feeding tools, MedShare, Amazon, and Operation Smile aim to improve nutritional outcomes for these children, creating a positive ripple effect that extends to their ability to undergo essential cleft surgeries.

“MedShare is proud to partner with Amazon and Operation Smile in this innovative initiative that addresses the intersection of healthcare and nutrition for children in need,” said Chernock, “This collaboration exemplifies the power of partnership to make a lasting impact on the lives of vulnerable populations around the world.”

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