Cleft lip and palate

Today, 1-in-700 babies in the UK are born with a cleft lip and palate, the most common form of birth defect.

The impact on a child’s life as they grow is profound. Typically, they will need at least four operations. They may also require ongoing tests, treatment or therapy. It will affect the way they look but also their speech, hearing and dental development. It can leave deep psychological scars.

In the developing world, cleft patients are frequently not operated on until later in life, if at all. As a result, they may be malnourished, and unable to talk well or hear properly. Often, they will be social outcasts.

Clefts occur when the upper lip, gum or roof of the mouth fails to join normally when a baby is in the womb. We do not know much about why they occur, though it is likely to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. We know some of the causes, such as the tongue preventing the two halves of the palate from joining, but in most cases there is no obvious explanation.

Our mission

We are a charity focused on providing permanent, sustainable, ways to improve cleft care in both the UK and overseas.

Supporting a variety of projects, we are helping improve the lives of people born with clefts in many different ways. Broadly speaking, they can be described in two categories.

Firstly through our sponsorship of research projects in the UK, we are helping to identify the likely causes of clefts, and to find ways in which to improve the treatment and outcomes for children born with a cleft.

And secondly our projects in other countries aim to support local medical teams to provide long-term treatment and care for people less privileged born with clefts.

Research projects

A core principle of CLEFT is to invest in research projects that study the cause and treatment of clefts. When it comes to clefts, there is still so much that is unknown.

The progression of knowledge and understanding of clefts is therefore a key component in improving the methods used by surgeons, speech therapists and other medical professionals, to treat and provide quality, long-term care for all people born with clefts, both in the UK and overseas.

Find out more about our research projects

Overseas projects

CLEFT works with local surgeons and other specialists in several lower income countries to help them develop high quality, multidisciplinary CLEFT centres.

We do this by visiting and working with local teams regularly, helping to provide education and training, and donating much-needed equipment. 

We do not pay for individual operations, and we do not send large and expensive short-term “parachute missions”, to perform many operations in a short space of time, but often ultimately leaving nothing behind.

Our goal is to support local teams so that children born with clefts in these countries will have the same opportunities of having quality cleft care as those in the UK.

Find out more about our overseas projects