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Smile train to chug into Myanmar
A patient from Myanmar at Shija Hospitals and Research Institute in Imphal. Telegraph picture

Imphal, June 12: Shija Hospitals and Research Institute, Imphal, is set to take its “smile train” into the interiors of neighbouring Myanmar and expand the project in three states of the Northeast — Nagaland, Tripura and Assam.

The hospital, the largest private medical institution in Manipur, today launched its project, Mission Myanmar, on the occasion of five years of its smile train project, under which cleft lip and palate were corrected by performing free operations.

The project funded by Smile Train Incorporated, New York, world’s largest cleft charity, was launched in Manipur by the hospital on June 10, 2006. A small function was organised in the hospital complex today to mark the launch of Mission Myanmar.

Under the mission, the hospital will perform free cleft operations in Myanmar by tying up with private hospitals of the country.

“A medical team will leave Imphal for Mandalay in Myanmar on June 28. We will tie up with a private hospital there and perform free cleft surgeries,” Kh. Palin, managing director of the hospital, said.

Nine patients from Myanmar arrived at the hospital yesterday for treatment of various ailments, including one with a cleft lip.

Giving reasons for launching Mission Myanmar, Palin said there were many cleft cases in the country but not a single plastic surgeon.

Sabi Lal, 52, a resident of Tamu and one of the nine patients from Myanmar who arrived here yesterday, said there were many cleft cases in his country.

Mission Myanmar will open its doors to the neighbouring country and beyond to sell healthcare services of Manipur under India’s new Look East policy.

Palin said patients in Myanmar have to go to Thailand or Singapore for treatment. “However, many can’t afford the trip. Coming to Manipur is cheaper and Imphal has all state-of-the-art healthcare facilities,” he said.

A team, led by Palin organised a camp at Moreh, the border town of Manipur, to identify cleft cases in Myanmar on June 9. Many patients with various ailments turned up.

“The only problem is restrictions on Myanmarese nationals coming to Imphal. Because of the restrictions they are reluctant to come though they were willing to get treatment here,” he said.

Mamtaa Carrol, smile train programme manager, Eastern India, urged authorities of both Myanmar and India to give free access to Myanmarese nationals, who are coming to Manipur for healthcare services.

“If restrictions are going to be there, India’s Look East Policy will have no meaning,” Carrol said.

The smile train group gave Shija Hospitals and Research Institute the role of “mentor” for performing cleft operations in Nagaland, Tripura and Silchar.

Under the project, Shija Hospitals has performed 1,927 cleft operations. Of these, 20 per cent are outside the state, including Myanmar.

Five patients from Myanmar came to Shija Hospitals in June last year for cleft surgery.

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