Time off…in pain

Posted in: Blog, by Rachel Purdy, on 21st November 2014 | Comments Off on Time off…in pain

Ever had toothache so bad that you were unable to concentrate at work? So bad that you had to take time off to go for an emergency appointment at the dentist? Or so bad you had to take the day, or week, off work, unable to cope?…Sound familiar?
You are not alone.

Alfonce, unable to teach his students due to dental pain

Alfonce, unable to teach his students due to dental pain

Work days lost due to poor oral health care is a global issue. In a nationwide survey by the British Dental Health Foundation, more than 415,000 employees took time off work in 2013 due to dental problems. The same study also revealed that 1.1 million parents admitted taking time off work to look after a child suffering with their oral health. This came at an estimated cost to UK businesses of £36.6 million….this is in the UK, a country where the dentist to population ratio is approximately 1:1500.

Now, imagine suffering toothache in a country where the dentist to population ratio is 1:400,000, where the nearest option for getting safe treatment would mean an uncomfortable two-hour bus journey which would cost you the equivalent of a week’s income – and that’s just the journey to get to the hospital; you may then have to wait a day to be seen, stay in town overnight and then pay more to register with the hospital and for the actual treatment.
During programme after programme we meet patients who have been suffering for months, often years, unable to work.

Ibrahim in pain and unable to provide for his family

Ibrahim in pain and unable to provide for his family

Elderly Ibrahim Kyakwaga came to visit the training programme in Bukoba district in September 2014. Like the majority of people in the rural areas of Tanzania he is a subsistence farmer. He and his large family depend on the bananas that they grow. Previously having suffered in pain for a number of years, he had begged, borrowed, sold possessions and managed to scrape together Tsh 100,000 (£37) so that he could afford to go and see the District Dental Officer, about two hours away by bus. When he visited the dental training programme he was in pain again; he had a grand total of four teeth remaining in his mouth. He told us this time visiting the District Dental Officer in the town was not an option due to the costs involved. He had not been able to work on his farm due to the excruciating pain. He and his nine children became dependant on his wife for everything, but she struggled to manage all of the family’s needs. Life had become even tougher for them.

Alfonce (81), an English and Maths tutor, had been in pain for 15 years; pain for which he used traditional medicine. His dental pain had gradually stopped him from being able to tutor his students which meant that he wasn’t earning anything; putting more pressure on his wife and his sons and daughters to earn an income and help support the family.


Scholastica, dental pain prevented her from farming

Scholastica (49), another farmer, was unable to work on her farm, eat properly and provide for her family due to dental pain which she has been suffering from for about a year – unable to access help.

Faustine, Abubakari, Eradius, Restuta…the list of names and lives affected continues, programme after programme, day after day. Bridge2Aid training of Health Workers (Clinical Officers in Tanzania) has already provided access to around 3.3million people in the rural areas of Tanzania, though there are around 27 million more individuals and families whose work, education, health, reputation and relationships could be damaged if more is not done to give them access to vital, safe emergency dental treatment.

And that’s why we continue to look for more Health Workers to train, more volunteers to fly out to Tanzania to help with the training, and more funds to support this invaluable work. So that fewer of the people eventually touched by our work will have to take time off in pain.

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