Dental education in East Africa instead of Christmas at home

by Dr. Dieter Bischofberger/ DWA, 2013/02/21

Together with his assistant Ute Benz, Dr. Dieter Bischofsberger, a dentist from Freiburg, went to Ethiopia to provide dental education to the families of the humedica family sponsorship programme at the project locations of Mercato and Kazanchis. Here is his report on his mission to Ethiopia.

“Shortly before our departure to Ethiopia, neither Ms Benz, my assistant, nor myself as a dentist had received a work permit for our planned activity at the health post in the refugee camp of Melkadida, near the border between Ethiopia and Somalia.

In spite of intense efforts made both by ourselves and by the humedica team in Addis Abeba, it was not possible to receive a work permit at that time.

After consulting the humedica staff at the headquarters in Germany, we changed our plans spontaneously and decided to hold courses on dental prevention and health education at the project locations of the family sponsorship programme. Both of us quickly identified with our new task.

We really appreciated the support, readiness to help and cooperation of the local social workers Rigbe and Fecadu at the Mercato project and Hadra at the project of Kazanchis. This was a new experience for all those involved.

The first project was named after its location, “Mercato”, and is situated in a slum area of Addis Abeba. The target group of this project were the children and youths of the sponsored families who receive homework assistance as well as a warm meal on a daily basis. Their parents were included in the project as well so that all families of the sponsorship programme were able to profit from the dental education given.

Since this was the first time that a dental prevention campaign was carried out in these projects, we had to improvise.

To anticipate the outcome I can tell you that the campaign has been a great success in both projects. Both the parents and the children, as well as the two of us, had great fun and the many questions we were asked showed us that the Ethiopians were really interested in the topic.

The means we used for demonstration purposes were a flip-chart as well as posters that we had brought from Germany. Since we held our seminars in English, I would like to thank Fecadu for his translation to Amharic.

My dental assistant Ute Benz and I shared the tasks according to different target groups. While I held seminars and workshops for the 30-40 adults, Ms Benz worked with the children.

We talked about the topics like the function and structure of the teeth, the role of healthy teeth for the human organism, the development of caries and pain, the use of toothbrushes versus wooden tooth cleaning sticks, nutrition and teeth, and we gave a demonstration of efficient tooth brushing (for the children and youths).

One key question we asked ourselves and we also discussed with the social workers was whether instructions like these make sense and whether they should be repeated eventually or even extended. What is the use of a spontaneous campaign like that? Isn’t the value of such a campaign questionable if the health situation in the slums will not change for the better?

Our answer is: “Definitely not!” Of course it is illusory to expect quick successes. Dental education should be better adapted to the children, controlled and should become a permanent concern.

It would be advisable and important to examine the children’s teeth, assess their DMF-T (Decayed/Missing/Filled Teeth) index and give them dental treatment if necessary.

To finish, we would like to thank the humedica team in Germany and in Addis Abeba for their commitment.”

We would like to thank Dr. Bischofsberger and Ms Benz for their tireless commitment. They worked for humedica at Christmas and New Year in order to take care of people in Ethiopia and demonstrate practised charity. Heartfelt thanks!

In case you are interested in sponsoring a family or a part of a family, please find more information here and be welcome to fill in a family sponsorship form for Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Brazil or Haiti!

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