Ethiopia, Africa’s oldest independent country, with its unique and beautiful authentic customs and traditions, made Smiles4Ethiopia’s very first volunteer trip an unforgettable cultural experience!
An overall gratifying experience, this exploratory volunteer trip was also a great learning experience. We discovered that in order to help in a more impactful way, sustainability must be a key feature of our work. This venture, which spanned over our spring break, made evident the barriers Ethiopians face in accessing oral health care. These barriers extend far beyond a simple lack of supplies.
The Dentist-to-population ratio of Ethiopia is 1:1.3 million (FDI, 2009). This overwhelmingly disproportionate ratio explains why extractions accounted for 90% of the dental treatments we observed while volunteering. Addis Ababa University Dental Health Service and Training Department is the sole public oral health care provider in the country, thus, it faces the great difficulty of trying to meet the needs of patients outside of emergency palliative care.
The shortage of supplies and manpower further hinder the university from meeting the large oral health care demand in Ethiopia resulting in a lack of oral health education and oral screenings among the general population. This lack of oral health knowledge and awareness has the detrimental effects of preventable and easily curable oral pathologies to remain unaddressed until they’ve reached emergency status.
A combination of only one public oncology center in the country and zero oral pathologists means that many of these easily preventable oral pathologies are not diagnosed until extremely late stages. Sadly, these cases are extremely common and often result in death.
I hope now it is as clear to you as it was to us on our venture that the work is just beginning for Smiles4Ethiopia. We hope to continue working towards making a meaningful difference for a population in such dire need!
We are so grateful to everyone who made this effort possible! Thanks to our gracious supporters, we were able to purchase supplies that cost close to $3,200 in total, surpassing the amount we initially set out to raise.
Here is a list of all the supplies we hand-delivered after purchasing them with your generous donations:
18 packs of Gutta Percha points
#15-40 -20 packs of 4×4 Gauze
3 Dycal (self-setting, radiopaque calcium hydroxide composition)
25 packs of absorbent points
25 packs of plugger and spreader duo
8 packs of perio probes -6 packs of self seal sterlize pouches
1 Apex locator