Emergenza Sorrisi

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For over 13 years we have been giving children new smiles. We train local doctors with the aim to create reference poles in every country, where the local resources could reach high levels of health specialization: we mean autonomy as sustainability. And we’re committed to children having a healthy planet to grow up on. Emergenza Sorrisi is a no profit non - governmental organization active in 23 countries around the world, where we help children affected by facial serious diseases and not only. We are committed to protecting the environment for current and future generations.


Thanks to 375 volunteer doctors and nurses, Emergenza Sorrisi has already given a new smile to over 5,200 children with cleft lip, cleft palate, facial malformations, burns sequeles or war trauma and other disabling diseases. Paralellel to surgical missions, Emergenza Sorrisi also carries out training courses devoted to local medical and paramedical staff, of which 577 professionals have so far benefited, and works to create and support local centres of excellence in these medical specialization.


In addition to strengthening professional skills on the ground, we implement information and prevention campaigns on congenital malformations, social inclusion projects and fight against child and female violence, support activities for local communities in order to promote environmental protection, the conscious use of resources and the achievement of sustainable development.


Emergenza Sorrisi goal is not only to operate children affected by this disease, but also to prevent the appearance of this and other malformations with awareness campaigns, and information on folic acid administration and proper nutrition.

In the international cooperation perspective, Emergenza Sorrisi aims to create ownership of the local actor: only by making local actors autonomous it is possible to create a significant change. The commitment to carry out a training activity according to a capacity building programme is, without doubt, the added value of the Emergenza Sorrisi action: it is social innovation that makes results concrete and tangible.


This approach, which is integrated into a more global context in the field of fundamental human rights, emphasises fairness and gender equality, as it makes health care accessible to all, given that the right to health is and must be for all.
In addition, the harelip and other congenital malformations are considered, in many cultures, a divine curse, whereby affected children are considered cursed and removed from society with their entire family, causing social isolation, cultural, economic.

Giving these children a smile means supporting them on a path of social inclusion. Training and strengthening local medical capacity means guaranteeing the fundamental human right to access medical health services, as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Human Rights of the United Nations, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The right of the child to have access to health is regulated by the Charter of the Rights of the Child.

Principle 4: The child shall enjoy the benefits of social security. He shall be entitled to grow and develop in health; to this end, special care and protection shall be provided both to him and to his mother, including adequate pre-natal and post-natal care. The child shall have the right to adequate nutrition, housing, recreation and medical services.

What we do

Emergenza Sorrisi operates through a methodology developed in many years of experience, all around the world:


Surgical missions

They are the main means through which Emergenza Sorrisi, reaching with a team of doctors and nurses the poorest or most difficult parts of the world, operates free of charge children, who would otherwise have no chance of being able to heal.


Local doctors & nurses training 

All Emergenza Sorrisi missions provide training for local doctors: a primary objective for the association because it allows autonomy by local doctors in treating their patients in an appropriate manner and with cutting-edge techniques, an exit strategy that allows a high degree of sustainability to the activities of Emergence Smiles wherever it goes in the world.

This objective follows the principle "Learning by Doing", a sustainability strategy through teaching/ learning, reserved for foreign doctors who follow our training courses. The presence of locally prepared doctors, in fact, brings with it advantages both in terms of reducing the number of children with similar diseases, both for the fact that children can benefit from surgical treatments in their countries without having to wait for the arrival of foreign doctors.


Medical Centers

Emergenza Sorrisi considers the creation of Centres of Excellence equipped for the treatment of congenital facial malformations as a fundamental element of its methodology, in order to allow constant and continuous care for children in individual countries.

In Iraq, Afghanistan, Benin, Burkina Faso, Congo and Libya we have already laid the foundations for specialized facilities in hospitals where we have carried out our surgical missions.


Social inclusion

We have to remember that facial malformations such as cleft lip not only cause a medical problem, but also a very serious social discomfort.

Children with these diseases are marginalized, considered persecuted by God and for this reason it is thought that the only possibility of healing is to entrust them to popular beliefs and religious rites, such as the woodoo in Benin.

We also intervene on the cultural level by explaining to the village leaders and the elderly that surgery is the only chance of healing for children and that they have no fault for their physical condition.

Through surgery it is possible, therefore, to allow the child and his family to be inserted in a path of social inclusion, previously impossible.


In the Covid-19 pandemic emergency, Smiles Emergency has been immediately activated in supporting medical networks in the countries where it is present organizing on line training courses opened to all medical and university facilities interested in being supported.

The training course focuses on prevention, diagnosis and treatment cases Covid-19 in medical and surgical sectors, with special attention to infectious and anaesthesiologic aspects.

The training course has been attended by medical centers and hospitals in Burkina Faso, Benin, Congo, Jordan, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan.

The on line Course wants:

  • To Provide healthcare professionals with tools to address the health emergency due to the new coronavirus (SARS Cov-2) to limit its transmission.

  • To Define the role of prevention and control and treatment of infections within the "preparedness", "readiness"

  • To provide useful elements for the training of health professionals, working in public health and prevention contexts, on the procedures to be put in place for contact tracing, and diagnostic and clinical framework to ensure a homogeneous approach on the national territory


“Smiles in Benin” Project


Emergenza Sorrisi has been working in the country since 2011, implements in the country a program consisting of several projects.

The project "Smiles in Benin - 3" includes a medical training activity, combined with an awareness and information campaign for the development of preventive actions and pathways of access to the health service for families where there are cases of facial malformations and noma - a type of gangrene that destroys mucous membranes of the mouth and other tissues. It occurs in malnourished children in areas where sanitation and cleanliness are lacking.

The project proposes the operative model of the "Awareness Campaign" - already implemented thanks to the 8xmille funding of CEI – Conferenza Episcopale Italiana - in the previous phases.

The local Ministry of Health, given the results already achieved in the past, decided to expand the project in other areas of the country not reached by previous awareness campaigns.

Through the organization of our team of local sensitizers and trainers, we have illustrated to the population through images and multimedia content and paper handouts, the themes of the campaign to the population.



“Welcome and Smiles – Phase 3” project Progetto 


Emergenza Sorrisi provides medical care to special cases encountered in the world that cannot receive medical care in their own countries, due to local structural deficiencies or because they are very special cases and it’s necessary to help in structured health facilities.

Emergenza Sorrisi then organizes operations in Rome.

Thanks to the Fondazione Terzo Pilastro support, Emergenza Sorrisi every year welcomes small patients to be treated and organizes moments of medical reflection.


Scientific Training Activity

Emergenza Sorrisi is characterized by a strong scientific connotation because of its composition made mostly by doctors and specialized nurses.

Scientific training, therefore, remains an important element of our activities.

Scientific training takes place through specialized continuing training courses included in every project activityor mission led by the organization.

For example, in first emergency projects in Libya, Emergenza Sorrisi has always carried out specialist continuing training courses aimed at Libyan doctors to prepare them to provide assistance in their own country, ensuring, in the same way, a strong exit strategy.

Our training courses covers infectious disease, emergency medicines, surgery, psychiatry (with a special attention to post traumatic stress disorders treatment. Every course is carried out in collaboration with medical experts’ trainings coming from main hospitals collaborating with Emergenza Sorrisi.

In addition, Emergenza Sorrisi organizes courses in distance system in collaboration with Sanità Informazione Consulcesi - Healthcare Information and Consulting - on cleft palate and functional aspects, lip surgery functional aspects of reconstructive and treatment of burns.

Emergenza Sorrisi also organizes annual workshops in collaboration with the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore) and with Fondazione Policlinico Universitario Agostino Gemelli, in collaboration with the Gemelli Foundation and the support of the Fondazione Terzo Pilastro.

The workshop addresses issues related to good international health, international cooperation activities and medicine in developing countries, countries with economies in transition and fragile countries.


Awareness Campains

Zero Tolerance, a campaign that Emergenza Sorrisi carries out in Benin to fight female violence and the phenomenon of brides girls, supported by Emergenza Sorrisi and implemented by Emergenza Sorrisi Benin, aims to raise awareness of the local population, in particular young female population, on the female violence and early marriages, trying to undermine those cultural habits that allow 11 years teenagers to get married and not be to follow their own path of cultural, social and professional awareness.

Emergenza Sorrisi


Even in 2020, despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, we have managed to do a lot, thanks to the help of all of you who support us. 
We have published the Annual Report 2020 with all the activities in detail. 
Download it now and find out how many smiles we have given to children in Italy and other countries!
Thanks to our volunteer Simona Geninazza for the English translation.

Emergenza Sorrisi

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