Enduring back-straining positions and makeshift lighting systems for an entire week, a talented team of two dentists and one medical doctor from New Zealand freely provided their services to Syrian refugees and Lebanese patients Sept. 9_13. The team came well-equipped with dental supplies and hygiene care packages to be distributed to the patients.
The visiting dentists originated from Richmond Dental Center located on the southern island of New Zealand. Although treatments ran the gamut, the most common problems the doctors dealt with were cavities and rotting teeth. This trip served as a trial visit to explore the possibility of establishing a long-term partnership between Richmond Dental Center and MERATH, the relief arm of LSESD, in which teams from New Zealand would be sent to Lebanon on a regular basis to make up for the lack of dental providers serving the refugee communities.
In addition to the two dentists, a qualified general practitioner provided basic medical services. After a few days of performing basic evaluations and writing prescriptions, the doctor lamented that the conditions she had seen there had been quite diverse and that, had she been in her own clinic, she would have referred the patients on for further evaluation and treatment. Unfortunately, she was limited by the type of services she could offer, knowing that some patients needed extensive treatments that were nearly impossible to obtain without health insurance. Examples of such cases were those with cancer or leukemia, diseases that the patients recognized would result in death, as they did not have the means to obtain proper treatment.
This camp was made possible by the contributions of Tearfund New Zealand, which provides and funds relief services around the world for a wide variety of crisis situations. Tearfund is a major sponsor of MERATH and seeks to form a long-lasting partnership by sending medical and dental teams from abroad to support the relief workers on the ground in Lebanon.