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Patient Story Morocco

Timely Surgery Leads to Rania’s Brighter Future

Patient Story Morocco

Timely Surgery Leads to Rania’s Brighter Future

Six-month-old Rania, before surgery. Photo: Margherita Mirabella.

Before Rania’s birth, no one in her family had seen another person with a cleft condition.

Heartbroken, shocked and confused, her family didn’t know what had caused her to be born with a cleft lip. But despite the uncertainty of what laid ahead, they knew they had to remain strong.  

Believing that Rania’s cleft condition was God’s will, her grandmother, Nour, was determined to find the best cleft care possible regardless of how long it took her. 

Thanks to information shared by the doctors at the hospital where she was born, Rania’s family didn’t need to search for long. 

Less than a week later, Rania was in the care of Operation Smile Morocco medical volunteers. 

Shortly after Rania’s birth, her grandmother, Nour, arrived to Operation Smile Morocco’s care center where local volunteers provided care that would help keep Rania healthy until she was old enough to receive surgery. Photo: Margherita Mirabella.

As one of the most active nonprofits in the country, Operation Smile Morocco seeks to reach patients and families affected by cleft conditions by delivering safe surgery and providing year-round multidisciplinary services including speech therapy, psychosocial support, dental care and more at its three care center locations in Casablanca, El Jadida and Oujda.

Arriving with her grandmother to the nearby Casablanca center, 1-week-old Rania was too young to receive cleft surgery, but local volunteers fitted her with a feeding plate, a device that allowed her to feed more easily.

Pre-surgical dental care such as feeding plates helps children like Rania avoid life-threatening malnutrition that some patients experience when their cleft condition makes breastfeeding challenging. 

With her new plate and the ongoing support of the volunteer medical team, Rania only needed to get a little older and stronger before she was ready for her cleft lip surgery. 

It took six months, but the family finally received a call from Operation Smile Morocco letting them know that an upcoming surgical program was taking place. They boarded a bus provided by Operation Smile and made the 32-hour journey from Casablanca to Dakhla. 

After their arrival at the mission site, Nour learned that Rania was not alone in her condition. 

Alongside many other families during a 2015 surgical program in Dakhla, Morocco, Rania arrives with her grandmother, Nour, ready for cleft surgery. Photo: Margherita Mirabella.

Rania’s family felt peace knowing they were among other families seeking help for their children’s cleft conditions.

After performing a health evaluation to ensure she was strong and healthy enough to undergo anesthesia, volunteer medical professionals shared the exciting news with Nour that Rania was cleared and scheduled for her life-changing surgery.

Volunteer anesthesiologist Dr. Marcello Texiera of Brazil shares a smile with Rania. Photo: Margherita Mirabella.

Nour was overcome with happiness when she saw Rania’s new smile. She couldn’t believe the change one surgery could make. 

Even before volunteers repaired Rania’s cleft condition, Nour loved her deeply. But it wasn’t until after seeing her granddaughter’s transformation that she realized cleft surgery would allow others to see Rania as the beautiful person Nour always knew she was. 

Rania, a year after surgery. Photo: Margherita Mirabella.

Upon returning home to Casablanca, Nour and Rania’s lives have changed drastically. 

It had been a very isolating time for Nour during the months before Rania’s surgery as they waited for Operation Smile Morocco to call. She tried to stay inside with Rania as much as she could to avoid the questions and judgmental looks from some members of their community.

Today, Nour takes Rania everywhere.

Rania and Nour, today. Photo: Lorenzo Monacelli.

Now, when people look at Rania, all they see is a joyous girl who loves to smile at her grandmother. Even some family members who didn’t meet Rania until after surgery are surprised to learn that she was born with a cleft lip. 

With early surgical intervention, Rania avoided the health problems and painful stigma that some people experience when living with an untreated cleft condition.

Instead, Rania gets to grow up being excited about going to school and making friends. With a passion for drawing and dancing, Rania has the life every child deserves.  

At 5 years old, when Rania was asked what she would say to those who helped her when she was an infant, she said, “Thank you for everything.”

Photo: Lorenzo Monacelli.

Our promise of improving health and dignity during the COVID-19 pandemic endures. Once again, we’re providing surgery and in-person care while taking stringent measures to keep families safe. Hope is on the horizon. And we remain focused on what cleft care makes possible for children, helping them to better breathe, eat, speak and live with confidence.


It takes as little as $240 and as few as 45 minutes to provide life-changing surgery and a bright, beautiful new smile to a waiting child.