KIHEFO promotes local initiated solutions to fight disease, ignorance and poverty in southwestern Uganda
Through the power of partnership over 1200 people living in rural villages throughout the Kabale and Kanungu Districts benefited from KIHEFO’s Dental and Health Clinics that were organized in five communities from February 6 – 12th, 2013.
The partners that made these clinics possible were many. Organizations, including KIHEFO, Change for Children, and Kindness in Action. The local community groups who mobilized on the ground to transform church and school spaces into temporary clinics. A team of Ugandan health professionals, including doctors, nurses, nursing students, and family planning counselors. And lastly, a passionate team of 13 Canadian dentists, dental assistants, hygienists, and logistic volunteers – who donated two weeks of their time to travel to Uganda, learn first-hand about the local culture and health needs, and offer their dental health expertise and services to people living in need.
Dentists Reflect on Outcome of Clinics
For Catherine, one of the Canadian dentists from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, who’s been practicing since 1981, was enthusiastic that the clinics were organized to be “win-win” for all involved partners. She observed that KIHEFO’s logistic team had organized one of the best ‘on the ground’ health clinics she had ever participated in – noting the exceptional organization in providing patient history and maximizing the use of available resources to offer quality services.
Catherine saw hundreds of patients over five days of outreach clinics. She noted the common problem of tooth decay and gum disease amongst patients, caused generally by people’s lack of dental health knowledge to brush their teeth (using soft branches) after consuming sugary foods. One of the cases that affected her the most was providing services to a 70-year old woman at the clinic in Buhara. The woman had extreme tooth decay from years without access to dental health education and services. Catherine removed 15 rotting teeth from the top and bottom, leaving the woman with only 5 remaining bottom teeth. She lamented on the difficulty the woman would face to properly chew and digest her food. “It would be impossible for her to eat meat [and absorb the nutrients],” she said. Catherine stressed the importance of the link between dental health and nutrition.
Lee Hickling, a dentist from Kincardine, Ontario, Canada, was also struck by the severe dental health and nutrition needs in the Kigezi region. “I was surprised by the overall scope of poverty in the region,” he explained. Lee has participated in multiple dental clinics in Latin America, but admitted that the malnutrition he observed was “on a different scale” from other developing countries he had visited over the years. Lee performed hundreds of tooth extractions on men, women, youth and children, yet didn’t observe a single ‘restoration’ (cavity filling or cap) on any of the patients: a sign that the population is living completely without access to dental health services.
Building Awareness & Demand for Dental Health
Since the first dental clinics in 2012, KIHEFO has been trying to change the current reality in Kabale through increasing dental health education to rural populations. Through education and awareness building, “people can understand the value in the [dental] service” – Catherine said passionately, adding that she was impressed how KIHEFO was committed to helping community groups and populations to create the demand for dental health.
For Kevin Lobay, a dentist/physician from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, participating in the five-day health clinics in rural Kigezi was a truly positive experience. “It’s one of the most rewarding things I do,” he expressed. “Dentistry can have a lasting impact on health,” he added, reflecting on the positive outcome of the dental services provided to upwards of 1200 people in the Kabale and Kanungu Districts.
KIHEFO is grateful for the partnership of the Canadian organizations, and the team of Canadian dental volunteers who offered their time, skills and expertise to help strengthen dental health in the Kigezi region. KIHEFO anticipates continued partnership with Canadian dentists in the future, working together to build local capacity in Kabale, Uganda, and improve the long-term health of communities and populations in need.
Visit KIHEFO’s website for more information.