This month we invited 15 trained volunteers from Dentaid to come to Soweto to provide a two day clinic for the community. The need for decent dental work had been mentioned by the town clerk at our last play scheme, so a plan was put in place.
The clinic was based out of The Child Friendly Space. In the outside space each child’s teeth were assessed and fluoride was applied to strengthen and protect them. If they needed further treatment they would make their way inside the building which was set up with all the necessary equipment (much of which was donated by Dentaid to facilitate help within the community for the longer term).
The check-ups revealed that 75% of children had at least one of their canine teeth removed. This is a common practice by witch doctors, many of whom believe that the removal of a canine tooth will ease teething symptoms in young children. The belief is that the canine teeth of children under 5 years old are ‘false’ or ‘Ebiino’ teeth which cause disease. They are often removed using painful and unhygienic methods leaving damage and long term problems. Children with damage were given treatment and the community have now set up a programme of workshops, raising awareness about the dangers of ‘Ebiino’ practices.
The Dentaid team included international and Ugandan volunteers and following the initial two days of the main clinic, Joseph, a local volunteer stayed on for two days to work alongside Soweto’s local dentist, Nicholas. The donated equipment, including a new dentists chair has helped him set up and operate a regular clinic that reaches the whole community, including those living in the slums.
During the week a local wood workshop, linked with the vocational programmes of our local partners ADSN, crafted large toothbrush holders, to store new toothbrushes which were bought for all the children at the Centre. The idea is that they are kept at the schools so that the children can learn brushing techniques all together, making the learning experience more fun (and keeping the toothbrushes from being lost!).
Ben Wilkes who was hosting the Dentaid team over this time said ‘It was brilliant to see the community identify a need, and be able to meet it so quickly, The Dentaid team were professional and worked brilliantly with the children. We were able to open the clinics up to the wider community, and do workshops in the local school, so it really was a community wide event’.
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