We’re very proud of our new dentist, Zahra Sheikh

Hello, my name is Zahra and I’m a new associate dentist here at Highworth Dental Care. When I joined Stephanie asked me to write a blog for the website so I thought I would write about my volunteering.

I recently spent two weeks volunteering in Bangladesh with the charity, ‘Refugee Crisis Foundation’ (RCF). A group of four British dentists and two local Bangladeshi dentists provided emergency dental treatment to the refugee population of the Kutupalong camp. The camp houses more than a million Rohingya people, – a minority ethnic group from neighbouring Myanmar – whom have fled their homes, and crossed the border into Bangladesh owing to their persecution there. Most of the refugees have been through the traumatic experiences to flee to safety. One man we met walked for two straight months in order to get Bangladesh. Each refugee we met had a very sad and graphic story. Common themes were centred around torture of loved ones. Sadly, there is no psychological support and people live with these experiences for a lifetime without any professional help.

As the only dental charity with a permanent base in the camp, we saw more than two hundred patients for the duration of our visit. All cases required serious intervention with extraction of teeth being the main treatment that was provided.

The state of oral health in the camp was unimaginably shocking. Severe dental neglect was the norm. With such a limited diet and cheap high-energy, sugar-saturated fruit pulp being readily available, it was no wonder that most of the patients were in debilitating dental pain. Most people had never seen a dentist and the majority had been in continuing pain having had no access to basic dental care.

Our priority was to assist in pain relief to this local community and also to educate the children about the importance of brushing, and how to prevent dental problems from developing. We spent the last day teaching and volunteering in a local school with the help of local refugee translators.

A fundamental part of our trip was giving oral health and hygiene advice and reiterating its importance as a legacy to help in the prevention of these problems.

The trip was a very humbling, grounding and emotional experience. We take so much for granted in the developed world. Basic human rights such as clean water and sanitation are privileges for these people. I really would like to donate more of my time and experience to helping poorer communities and am currently looking into volunteer work with dental charities in Calais, Greece and Lebanon for future projects.

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