Our development project in Rwanda, Basic Package of Oral Care, has run for three years and includes 13 schools involving approximately 18,000 school children across three districts: Gasabo, Gicumbi, and Nyamagabe.
Our goal is to improve the dental health and general hygiene of the participating children. This will improve their lives, so they can benefit more from their schooling. We will achieve this by implementing a school-based toothbrushing and hand washing programme to strengthen the communities’ (especially the schools’) knowledge of dental care. It will also strengthen local capacity to handle and prevent infections and dental issues. Meanwhile, an ‘advocacy group’ will be formed consisting of relevant stakeholders at both district and national levels. This group will advocate school-based dental health initiatives.
The core of the project is therefore advocacy and capacity building, which will promote better access to dental care for the poorest members of society. The project, which is funded by Danida/CISU, is an expansion of a former project which ran from 2012-2015.
The Central African country of Rwanda is mostly known because of the genocide in 1994, where close to one million people were killed over the course of a couple of months. The significant consequences, combined with factors such as extreme poverty and a rapidly worsening HIV/AIDS pandemic, have resulted in a traumatised population struggling to manage a brutal daily life.
The health department in Rwanda conducted a survey looking at the most common reasons for hospital visits in the country: the number one reason was dental and oral disease.
For that reason it is problematic that only 37 dentists live in the country with a population of 12 million. In theory, this means that one dentist has to take care of more than 400,000 patients. WHO recommends a ratio of one dentist per 10,000 people.
This situation is not helped by the facts that toothbrushing is rare, sugar consumption is high, and ignorance of oral hygiene is widespread.
In Rwanda – as in many other developing countries – it is not enough to only treat the symptoms. It is also necessary to work along the lines of prevention.
.. 12 million people live in Rwanda.
.. When they go to the hospital, the most common reason is; tooth and gum disease.
.. Meanwhile, only 37 dentists live in the country.
Local anchoring in Rwanda
Dental Health Without Borders collaborates with the international humanitarian organisation SOS Children’s Villages Rwanda.
We are centred around the schools
In Rwanda approximately 85% of the children attend school, with a completion percentage of around 60%. The children are in school from a very early age until their teenage years, and in this period of their lives, permanent behavioural patterns are formed. The schools therefore represent an ideal platform for the promotion of dental health initiatives, and that is why most of our work in Rwanda is focused on schools.
More specifically, we are working in 13 different schools across the districts of Gikongoro, Byumba, and Kigali, primarily in order to help school children in grades 1-6. These schools have been chosen carefully in collaboration with each district’s department of education and SOS Rwanda, based on the following criteria:
- Students’ families are among the poorest
- The schools are disadvantaged compared to other schools in the area
- The boy to girl ratio in the schools is 50-50
- School test results in the 6th grade are worse than in other schools in the area
- Student attendance percentage is lower than in other schools in the area
This project will significantly help these children, and at the same time it will also benefit their families, teachers, and local health workers. As this project focuses on sustainability and long-term health improvement, all these groups will be tutored and trained in general dental health and basic hygiene. As part of our advocacy we are also working towards influencing relevant decision makers and politicians.
The overall goal of the development project
By mid 2018 we aim to have improved both oral and general health among school children in the above mentioned areas, and to have increased the level of responsibility within the relevant institutions and among individuals regarding school-based dental health initiatives.