Successful dental treatments for refugees

by Thomas Adelsberger/RBU,  2012/11/21

Dentist! This word alone might give the creeps to some of our readers and evoke unpleasant memories. Combining this with words like “drilling”, “injection” and many others will not make them feel any better. Yet there are patients who look forward to going to the dentist’s. This is what assistant coordinator Thomas Adelsberger found out in Ethiopia.

“When the arrival of a dentist is announced to the approximately 40.000 refugees here in Melkadida or to the about 170.000 refugees in one of the five other camps on the border between Ethiopia and Somalia, this causes great joy to most of them.

Why the refugees look forward to seeing a dentist is easy to explain: Just as there is a general lack of medical care in this area, there is a noticeable lack of medical specialists and dentists as well. People have to bear the pain as long as they can support it.

And when it becomes too great to bear, people act privately, which means that teeth are pulled out not with professional tools and anesthetic, but by a lay person with any kind of suitable tool available.

During their stay in Ethiopia from August till October, the two dentists Dr. Andrea Wiesner-Pommer (Munich) and Dr. Ullrich Kollmar (Kassel) met many patients who had been bothered by a toothache for a long time. Even though the possibilities of treatment were limited to root treatments or the pulling of the aching teeth, the patients could leave without pain, which meant an enormous relief to them.

The equipment of the mobile dental surgery of Melkadida is also very different from that of a surgery in Germany. Yet this did not prevent the doctors from the successful treatment of many patients. Often, in the course of one week, more than 250 treatments were performed on more than 60 patients.

In contrast to the treatments that were carried out by the poor people themselves, we were provided with sufficient sterile tools, anaesthetics, swabs, gloves and much more, thanks to humedica. We were also assisted by local nurses and experienced interpreters when this was needed.

With success! Dr. Kollmar explains that many of the treatments would not have been possible for him without the help of his interpreter Ahmed, who gently talked to the patients, explained them clearly what the treatment process would be like and answered all their questions until they were ready to be treated.

What Dr. Andrea Wiesner-Pommer and Dr. Ullrich Kollmar remember most, apart from their sore muscles at the end of the day since they had to work without some of their usual equipment, are the encounters they had with people. Understandably, most of the patients were not able to express their gratitude with a smile, yet their reactions still displayed great relief.

Even at the age of 71 and after many years of working as a dentist, Dr. Kollmar still had to experience something new: a long-lasting lack of dental care and medical treatment, a lack of hygiene and lots of painful inflammations made it necessary to pull 18 teeth from one patient.

That was the doctor’s personal – though sad – record of teeth pulled from one patient. At the same time, this record shows how important it is to send dentists to remote areas like this.”

In December already, the next dentist will travel to Melkadida. Together with his assistant, Ute Benz, the Freiburg-based doctor Dieter Bischofsberger will travel to the south of Ethiopia for three weeks to help where help is urgently needed.

Please continue to support us with your donation at the Horn of Africa and help us to provide the people living there with dental and basic medical care, treatment for pregnant women and children, the distribution of relief supplies and much more. Heartfelt thanks.

      humedica e. V.
      Reference „Famine Relief Africa
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

      SWIFT-Code: BYLA DE M1 KFB
      IBAN: DE35734500000000004747

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