Caravan transformed into a dental clinic to help refugees
‘Amb les teves mans’ (‘With your hands’) is a Catalan NGO which has cre-ated a mobile dental clinic to attend refugees in Greece. The idea was born in March when some of the volunteers from this organisation trav-elled to Lesbos and Idomeni, on the border between Greece and Mace-donia. The doctors they talked to at the Idomeni camp explained that one of the main difficulties they have to deal with regarding the dental problems of the refugees is that many children under 13 have never had the opportunity to visit the dentist before. They will first carry out en-dodontic treatment, fillings for cavities, and tooth extractions for those who need them. The Catalan Association of Dentists has got involved in the project and is helping to find professional volunteers and the re-quired material.
Barcelona (CNA).- The Catalan NGO ‘Amb les teves mans’ (‘With your hands) will of-fer dental aid to refugees in Greece. Thus, a caravan turned into a mobile dental clinic is set to be functioning from the beginning of June in the camps; when the first volunteer dentists arrive. The vehicle will go by road to Italy. Once there, they will catch a ferry that will bring them near the refugees. The doctors they talked to explained that one of the main difficulties they have to deal with regarding the dental problems of the ref-ugees is that many children under 13 have never had the opportunity to visit the den-tist before. They will first carry out endodontic treatment, fillings for cavities, and tooth extractions for those who need them. The Catalan Association of Dentists has got involved in the project and is helping to find professional volunteers and the re-quired material.
“They told us: we need dentists, because there are children with 12 or 14 cavities, horrible teeth or messed up molars” said one of the NGO promoters, Milton Sánchez. Sánchez and other volunteers from this organisation saw with their own eyes the reality of refugees in the camps. Last March they travelled to Idomeni. Sánchez explains that the doctors working there told them they needed special help to deal with dental problems so, when they came back, they started to work on solving the issue.
“We were given a caravan and we thought we could transform it into a dental clinic”, explains Sánchez. From that moment on they started to make contacts and brought in more entities, institutions and companies to this project. Two weeks ago, the dentists association - which brings together more than 5,500 dentists - answered the request, telling them that “they loved the project” and wanted to take part in it. So far, the associations of each province have sent mails to their professionals and have made a call to find dentists ready to help.
The aim is that the caravan be functioning from the beginning of June in the camps; when the first volunteer dentists arrive. The vehicle will go by road to Italy. Once there, they will catch a ferry that will bring them near the refugee camps. Milton Sánchez will be the driver. “We are in charge of the logistics and the association of the professional issues” he said. As this camp has been already closed he states they “will go wherever we are needed, the caravan can move around so we will go place by place, wherever it is necessary”.
As Sánchez made clear, the caravan will be ready to do “campaign orthodontics”. That means killing nerves, filling cavities, curing abscesses and extracting teeth. They will attend children as well as adults, no matter what age. “We cannot do much more but what we want is to avoid toothache” he highlighted. “Children under 13 are the ones with the most mouth problems as before they reached 5 or 6 years they do not go to the dentist and, with the war and the terrible situation they have been through, they have never been to the dentist” explains Sánchez. Although at the beginning they wanted to install a traditional dentist chair, it was too heavy for the caravan. In the end, a medical centre has given them a portable bed which can be used for the orthodontic work as well as for podiatry or gynaecology. “It has been adapted and we believe it is more versatile: we will use it for different issues as the other day one of the volunteers had to attend a birth in one of the refugee's tents. Now the baby is stateless” Sánchez pointed out.
The association will be responsible for bringing together the basic emergency material, mostly from donations. “They know what is required but we need collaboration” comments Sánchez. Looking to the future, both entities want to contact producers or big companies to ask them for help. The idea is to make a report three months after their arrival to evaluate the results. Then, they will evaluate the needs and decide whether to maintain the caravan until December, depending on the number of professionals that finally get involved, or end the project in line with the changed situation which by that time may have emerged.