The team (from left): Carl, Nami, Daniel, Anish, Florence, Kamal, Fadi, Chloe
Dr Fadi Barrak, Course Leader for the UCLan MSc Dental Implantology lead a team of dental clinicians to Olorte in Southern Kenya to spend ten days helping a community of Maasai, on behalf of a UK-based charity called Starfish Clinic Project International (SCPI). It is estimated that 1 million Maasai people live in Kenya and Tanzania and many of whom struggle with drought, disease and a lack of basic services.
The Olorte community comprises of about 13,000 people living on the border between Kenya and Tanzania in basic mud huts, with no electricity or running water. The nearest town to Olorte with a hospital is four hours’ drive away, but the lack access to cars makes reaching the hospital a challenge in itself. There are many healthcare issues within the Olorte people due to the lack of access to vaccination, respiratory problems stemming from poor ventilation and open fires in their dwellings, and a lack of education.
Florence learns some basic dentistry skills
Fadi’s hope for the next visit, is to bring out a mobile dental drill unit to carry out more advanced work and to try to save more of their teeth. His fundraising is an ongoing operation but he is committed to the project as there’s really no other option for them in the region. “One of the locals told me a story of visiting the witch-doctor to have a tooth taken out using a pen-knife, but then the pen-knife broke during the extraction. They just accept that they have to put up with it. In contrast, it was lovely seeing their faces when we were able to do treatment for them safely under local anaesthetic. All the 150 children we assessed turned up afterwards to complete their treatment- they really value it.”
The next big challenge for Fadi is to try and find people to help develop the educational projects in Olorte - he would love to hear from anyone in UCLan who might be able to help out! If so, send an email to FNBarrak@uclan.ac.uk.
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Fadi has been visiting that community for about ten years, but this year he was joined by one of his UCLan MSc students, Dr Anish Patel, and one of the clinical supervisor staff, Dr Nami Farkondeh. A further MSc student is lined up to join the group next year.
This year Anish started up a Basic Oral Healthcare project, teaching the local people about the dangers of sugar in an area without dental care. There is no regular dentist or doctor in the region, but a local nurse called Florence works with the team and does amazing work, from vaccinations to midwifery and now, after some guidance, even some dentistry!
This year Fadi brought an ultra-sonic scaler unit for cleaning teeth, which they managed to make work by using a generator and a makeshift water pipe from the nearby river, with all dental work being carried out in the open. The team carried out a treatment needs assessment for the community, including all of the 150 local children. Fadi explains:
“The oral hygiene in the community is surprisingly good. The local technique is to use twigs to clean the teeth, and so you see all the kids walking to school with twigs in their mouths. This does a reasonable job for the front teeth, but not, unfortunately, for the back teeth, where the very sugary local tea, or ‘chai’, results in a high level of tooth decay. At the moment, tea is the only real source of refined sugar in their diets.”
An eager queue of young dental patients