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Palestine

The development project in Palestine will run for 2½ years and include 29 schools with a total of 7,500 children from the ages of 6-12 years. It takes place in the most marginalised areas of two regions on the occupied West Bank; Bethlehem and Hebron.

The purpose of the project is to improve the dental health of vulnerable children, and to increase their access to dental care. This is done with the aim of improving their lives in general, so they might benefit more from their schooling. With daily toothbrushing programmes the communities’ (especially the schools’) knowledge of dental care will be strengthened, and their capacity to manage and prevent dental disease themselves will grow. Through advocacy at both the regional and national levels we will demonstrate and indicate how the Palestinian authorities can make better use of the scarce ressources at their disposal in a more sustainable fashion, by prioritising prevention in their health strategy.

The project is called ASMA – an Arabic abbreviation for “Healthy Teeth, Better Future”. It is funded by a Danida grant from CISU.

Why Palestine?

The Palestinian Territories came under Israeli occupation in 1967. Since then the situation has often been worsened by violent conflicts and battles between Israelis and Palestinians. According to OCHA, 42% of the Palestinian population in Gaza and on the West Bank has depended on humanitarian aid since 2015, and the vast majority are denied basic human rights such as free movement, work, basic services, and personal freedom.

The World Bank estimates that 25% of Palestinians live below the poverty line. If you subtract the large number of people who depend on food and financial aid from the UN, the poverty rates would most likely double.

Our investigation in the West Bank in 2014 showed that 45% of the tested children between the ages of 6-12 suffered from toothache, and on average each child had 1.6 teeth with caries severe enough to have attacked the nerve. Palestinian children consume a huge amount of sugar, and unhealthy snacks, and sugary drinks, daily. Furthermore, oral hygiene is not a priority for the average Palestinian family.

As a result, the Palestinian health system lacks the resources to respond to the vast need for treatment. A further complicating factor is the geographical barriers resulting from the conflict with Israel, which severely restricts movement. Both public and private dental clinics are located in the towns, from which the rural population is mostly cut off. On top of this is the poor financial situation, often making it impossible to pay for treatment. At the same time, the existing health strategy in Palestine tends to focus on diagnosis and treatment and less on preventive dental care, education, and knowledge of good oral hygiene.

Our investigation in the West Bank in 2014 found that 45% of the tested children between the ages of 6-12 years suffered from tooth ache, and on average each child had 1.6 teeth with caries severe enough to have attacked the nerve.

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Local anchoring

The project is run in collaboration with the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS), a nationwide, Palestinian Health NGO with 30 years of experience.

PMRS helps about 1.5 million Palestinians each year towards better health in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. PMRS’s national health programmes focus on prevention, education, and community participation.

Read more about PMRS.

The project is centred around the schools

We educate school teachers to conduct the daily toothbrushing programmes in their schools, and train local healthcare professionals, dentists, and dental students in school-based prevention of dental disease. The goal is to demonstrate to the Palestinian authorities how much there is to gain by prioritising prevention in the national health strategy.

Each year we send two dental missions to Palestine which provide emergency treatment and tutoring on dental health to the school children associated with the project as well as residents in the most marginalised areas in the southern part of the West Bank.

Dental Health Without Borders works with 29 schools with a total of 7,500 schoolchildren aged from 6-12 years, ranging from grades 1-6. These schools have been carefully selected in cooperation with each region’s ministry of education, and with PMRS. They have the fewest resources and poorer school test results in the area.

The goals of the development project

  • Dental health promotion: We want to improve the dental health of Palestinian children through daily toothbrushing with fluoride toothpaste during school hours, tutoring, and providing emergency treatment when needed, to enable life without tooth ache. This will lead to fewer school absences, better school results, and most of all healthy children with less need for dental treatment as they grow older.
  • Building capacity: We will strengthen the project schools’ knowledge of dental health and foster implementation of health prevention efforts. We are doing this through active involvement and training of teachers, parents, and health professionals such as dentists and dental students. At the same time, we will enable the local partner, PMRS, to implement this type of project in the future.
  • Sustainability: We will increase the level of responsibility of Palestinian decision-makers in dental and school-based intervention programmes by showing them how much there is to gain by prioritising prevention of dental disease in their health strategies.

SCREENING RESULTS IN THE PROJECT AREAS

Children with visible caries

2016: 96%
2018: 92%

Children who, when tested, experienced toothache

2016: 46%
2018: 9%

Children with bleeding gums

2016: 92%
2018: 20%

Number of teeth per child with visible caries

2016: 5.86 teeth
2018: 4.28 teeth