An annual dental visit is recommended for children. Unfortunately, this is not possible in a country where dental and oral care is highly priced. Majority wait to see how critical the problem is before they make up their mind.
Barbara Aloka, mother of four was in a similar situation but lucky for her that was about to change. “My seven-year-old twins had dental problems and it was coming to a week and I was still confused on what to do next. Luckily, I heard about free dental services being at Entebbe hospital by American volunteer dentists and it was timely. On the first day, I brought them and they were worked upon and today I brought one more for checkup,” she said.
Barbara’s children were among over 250 children with dental problems who benefited from a five- day dental camp held between January 29 to February 2 2018 by a team of volunteer dentists from the United States in partnership with Mildmay Uganda.
A team of 17 volunteer dentists from the United States through the Uganda Dental Mission led by Dr. Paul Musherure, a Ugandan-American based in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul in Minnesota, spent the first days of the dental camp at Entebbe hospital providing free comprehensive dental care to over 140 children (both HIV negative and positive). After they first came to Mildmay Uganda in 2004 where over 100 HIV positive children received dental care, return trips since then has seen a total of 4,000 children befitting from the mission trip.
Mildmay Uganda (MUg) is a faith-based, non-governmental organization specializing in the provision of comprehensive HIV prevention, care and treatment services for people living with HIV in resource-limited settings. Established in 1998 as a Centre of Excellence (CoE) for the delivery of comprehensive pediatric and adult HIV care and health worker training, Mildmay Uganda pioneered a family- centered approach to prevention care and treatment. Built as a tertiary referral HIV outpatient care facility to support 3,000 clients; to date they have maintained between 12,000 – 14,000 clients accessing life – saving anti-retroviral therapy every year for the last 6 years at the facility, according to facility officials. They have brought down the mother-to-child-transmission rate from an average of 19% in 2012 to average 3% today.
According to Dr. Paul Musherere, the gap for oral health among children is big and cannot be addressed by individual efforts. This has however not deterred Musherure who says they will keep coming in order to raise awareness about the problem and hope for a change in the system. “There is need for someone to push for oral health to be integrated into the health system otherwise we shall keep coming to dip into small holes,” said Musherure.
“Children living with HIV/AIDS are more prone to dental and oral health difficulties. These children have varying opportunistic infections yet the available treatment is administered in syrup form, which are full of sugars and decay the teeth. Furthermore, given the lack of resources on the parents (with priority going to food, clothing and maybe education), teeth related complications often go undetected until the child is in excruciating pain,” Dr. Musherure remarked.
According to Dr. Musherure, his first project was with a friend in Romania in 2003 and having seen the impact of the work, the benefit to the children, he was deeply touched and wanted his own home country of Uganda to also benefit from such services. Each year he organizes his fellow dentists in Minnesota for the annual visit to Uganda.
“We have never had any organization funding or support. In June every year before we come, I challenge the dentists to pay for their tickets because tickets are the most expensive item cost here. Most of the people you see here are doing so selflessly and with the intent to better the community and I cannot thank them enough for always coming along with me whenever I ask for their request,” Musherure stated.
Those are efforts that the people at Mildmay greatly appreciated. Dr. Jane Nakaweesi of Mildmay thanked the team for their work.
“We are grateful that you keep coming despite the challenges you encounter and thank you for impacting lives of the children and their families,” she told the Minnesota team.
When asked as to the efforts he would like to see put in place to impact their visits to reach more children, Dr Musherure echoed the need to have more ongoing interaction so that once the camp volunteers from the US leave, similar treatment can still be extended to the children.