Ramallah / PNN /
The Palestinian Medical Relief Society and the Danish NGO Dentists Without Borders held the second conference of the "Towards a National Palestinian Strategy and Efforts to Protect Children's Teeth from Cavities" project. The conference aimed to raise awareness and promote dental and oral health care in Palestine.
The project was implemented in collaboration with the Ministries of Health and Education, the National Committee for Oral and Dental Health, and several medical faculties in Palestinian universities.
The conference opened with introductory speeches and activities, starting with the Palestinian national anthem and a minute of silence in honor of the martyrs.
The host of the event, Razan Hamad, welcomed local and international guests, emphasizing the significance of the project in safeguarding children's health by maintaining their dental hygiene.
She highlighted that this project falls within the framework of medical relief projects that support the Palestinian healthcare sector through various distinguished programs.
During the conference, project partners discussed its importance. Presentations were delivered by Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, the President of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society; Dr. Mohammad Arrar from the Ministry of Education; Dr. Mohammad Al-Hawash, the President of the Dentists Syndicate; Dr. Ibrahim Ghanem, the President of the Danish Dentists Without Borders; Dr. Bu Danielsen; Dr. Mayar Dandaneh, representing dental students from Palestinian universities; and Dr. Mohammad Abu Younis from Al-Quds University. All of them emphasized the significance of the project and its numerous achievements in serving public health, starting with dental and oral health. They stressed the importance of the upcoming phase in this field.
Dr. Mustafa Barghouti expressed gratitude to the Danish partners and supporters for their vital work.
He highlighted that the Palestinian Medical Relief Society looks forward to a new phase of the project. Dr. Barghouti thanked the partnership with the Palestinian community, including the Ministries of Education and Health, university representatives, institutions, and the National Committee for Oral and Dental Health.
He acknowledged their contributions by mentioning their names, appreciating their achievements.
He also commended the dentists and dental students in Palestinian universities, urging them to volunteer in their community to serve its needs and enhance their expertise.
Dr. Barghouti specifically thanked the Medical Relief Society's project team, emphasizing that their efforts aim to improve dental health in Palestine, leading to overall better health for future generations.
He affirmed that the Medical Relief Society sees preventive treatment as the most advanced approach and a form of success. Prevention and eliminating the need for treatment are goals pursued by developed countries today, and the Society aims to achieve the highest rates of non-dependence on treatment.
In his special address to dental practitioners in universities, Dr. Barghouti encouraged them to volunteer willingly in various clinics and programs of the Medical Relief Society and other medical relief projects. He questioned whether they should wait for volunteers from Denmark to support their people while they passively watch.
Dr. Barghouti mentioned that the Medical Relief Society will soon celebrate its 45th anniversary since its establishment. He stated that it began as a voluntary movement and managed to become one of the largest providers of healthcare services, second only to the Ministry of Health in Palestinian society.
He clarified that the vision of the Medical Relief Society is to provide assistance and treatment to those in need, as the worst conditions arise from the inability to access treatment due to poverty among citizens, particularly in difficult political circumstances under occupation. He emphasized that 650 checkpoints exacerbate the Palestinians' situation, making it even more challenging for them to access medical services.
Dr. Barghouti expressed hope for a new phase of the project that focuses on enhancing awareness in the third stage. He also expressed his ambition and hope that the Ministry of Education will introduce dental cavity prevention as part.
Doctors Without Borders: Delighted to work with Medical Relief and trust in its work
Dr. Bo Danielsen, the President of Doctors Without Borders Denmark, expressed the organization's satisfaction with working with Medical Relief on this important and vital project, which is the cornerstone of Palestinian community health and the well-being of its citizens.
Dr. Danielsen provided a detailed explanation of the project's work over the years and the achievements that have been made. He also talked about Denmark's experience and how the focus on oral and dental health has positively impacted students, reducing their absences and improving their academic performance. He emphasized that the citizens' dental health in his country is the best globally due to the direct and immediate attention given to students' dental health at the primary level.
He expressed hope for adopting this experience in Palestine and affirmed their association's support for anything that serves the Palestinian community and its children.
He pointed out that Doctors Without Borders Denmark has been working with Medical Relief Palestine for many years and they have great confidence in Medical Relief because it serves the community and operates with transparency. He stated that their association will continue working with Medical Relief in the future.
Obaidallah and Dr. Mustafa provide an explanation of the "Asma" project
Dr. Ra'ed Mustafa, the Dental Health Director at Medical Relief, and Sabreen Obaidallah, the representative of Medical Relief in the National Dental Health Committee, welcomed the audience and provided a detailed explanation of the project. They mentioned that the project's partners and supporters include Doctors Without Borders Denmark, which aims to protect children's teeth in developing countries, as well as the Danish organization responsible for transferring Denmark's 100-year experience in this field.
Obaidallah mentioned Medical Relief and its work, highlighting its role as one of the largest non-governmental organizations working in the medical field in Palestine. They provided an overview of the project, which consists of three parts: promoting the idea of teeth cleaning among children in primary schools, raising awareness among students, parents, and teachers about the importance of dental care, and the treatment phase, which involved providing dental care services in schools in various areas and governorates.
They also mentioned that the project includes capacity building for healthcare workers, along with advocacy and lobbying campaigns to establish a national dental care system, appreciating the collaboration of various parties.
Dr. Ra'ed Mustafa explained that 97% of the students are from the primary stage, making them the target of health projects, including dental health. When their dental health improves, absenteeism decreases, and as a result, the students' education improves. This has already been observed among students.
He stated that this project was inspired by the experience of their Danish friends who have worked extensively to protect dental health, reaching generations free from any dental diseases because they focused solely on the dental health of their children.
Dr. Ra'ed Mustafa mentioned that the project is named "Asma" which means "healthy teeth and a better future." The project was established in 2016 and has gone through several stages. The first and second stages have been completed, and they hope to launch the third stage soon.
The project targeted hundreds of schools and achieved many positive and desired outcomes regarding students' dental health care. He mentioned the interventions carried out for teachers and parents in partnership with university students.
He also mentioned that statistics conducted showed that the decay rates among students were 95% from the first to sixth grades, which is one of the highest rates in the world. However, the interventions have had the desired impact, as dental decay rates have significantly decreased. In some schools, there were no reported cases of dental decay by the end of the project, leading to a decrease in absences due to toothaches. For example, the Jeb Al-Dhib school, which was demolished by IOF.
Ministry of Education: Dental health for students is vital to their academic achievement.
Mohammed Al-Hawash, the General Director of Comprehensive Health at the Ministry of Education, stated that the participation in the project has been ongoing for many years, and today's conference comes within the framework of a partnership between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health and Medical Relief, as they believe in the importance of the project in the health and education fields.
Al-Hawash explained that dental and oral health is essential and reflects on the students' overall health and academic achievement. Therefore, the ministry gives sufficient attention to this topic through its noble project and various programs.
The ministry is aware that this issue concerns the students' need for treatment because statistics from the Ministry of Education indicate a high percentage of primary stage students suffering from dental problems. Thus, it is necessary to raise awareness among students, teachers, schools, and parents about the importance of understanding the nature of food and reducing sugar consumption. The ministry has facilitated the "Asma“ project in this context to promote awareness.
He also pointed out that the project targeted various areas in Hebron, the Jordan Valley, and hard-to-reach areas because the Ministry of Education supports comprehensive health programs for schools.
This conference is an important part that demonstrates the concern for the health of Palestinian students.
Ministry of Health: The project and its partnership are a crucial part of our work to serve and raise awareness in the community.
Dr. Mohammad Arrar, the Head of the Oral and Dental Health Unit, mentioned in his speech that the Palestinian Ministry of Health places great importance on future generations, highlighting the ministry's programs and activities in this field.
He mentioned the Comprehensive Health Program for Palestinian students, which includes dental and oral health. The ministry has facilitated the project to emphasize its significance.
Dr. Khali Khawaja, a director at the Palestinian Ministry of Health, stated that the ministry focuses on oral health because it understands that oral and dental health is connected to overall bodily health. Diseases are linked to dental and oral health, emphasizing the utmost importance of community health today.
This project provided a great opportunity to highlight joint efforts in enhancing human health. He emphasized that the Student Health and School Health Department in the ministry is a crucial part of the School Health Program, providing examination, care, guidance, and treatment services. Therefore, it was the ministry's role to enhance attention to this aspect through the "Asma" project.
Universities: The "Asma" project was a successful experience in serving the community through medical relief.
Representatives of the universities expressed their appreciation for the partnership with medical relief in the project as it opened opportunities for university students and the universities themselves to be part of a project that serves the Palestinian community and its health.
Dr. Mohammad Abu Younes, the Dean of Dentistry at Al-Quds University, stated that the university and its partners have completed two stages and will launch a new phase of the project, aiming to educate and work on dental prevention and educate students about food and dental hygiene.
Abu Younes expressed hope that the third phase would be more advanced and would effectively convey information, especially in marginalized areas and areas difficult to access, where treatment services in this field are not easily accessible.
He stressed their efforts to reach all underserved areas, especially in areas known as "behind the wall," villages, and the countryside.
Dr. Nabil Asaad, the Dean of Medicine and Oral Surgery at An-Najah National University, stated that the message of partnership in the "Ismee" project and its conference is that when we talk about community associations, we cannot fail to mention medical relief, which has undertaken many health tasks to serve the masses and marginalized people for many years in places where these services are not available.
Dr. Nabil Asaad, the Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry at An-Najah National University, stated that the message of partnership in the "Asma” project and its conference today is that when we talk about community organizations, we cannot fail to mention the Medical Relief Society, which has undertaken many health missions to serve the masses and marginalized communities for many years, even in areas where these services do not reach.
He added that the Medical Relief Society has provided healthcare and preventive treatments in various fields, including dental treatment and oral education.
An-Najah National University and the Faculty of Dentistry consider themselves active partners in serving the community, especially for students in the basic stage. They have sought to elevate the educational, awareness, and preventive levels in dental and oral health.
Furthermore, he affirmed that An-Najah University is a major and essential partner with the Medical Relief Society, the Ministries of Health and Education, as this participation represents the collaboration of all healthcare, educational, civil society, and private sector sectors. It serves as an indication of everyone's commitment and the university's hope for its continuity in the future.