A lifeline to smile about...

sudan dentist
sudan dentist
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A queue of small puzzled faces greet Dr Tamer Alaredy as he sets up for the day in his mobile dental surgery.

For on this day he was not working in the comfort of his South Shore surgery, but in a refugee camp in Al Qadarif on the eastern border of Sudan.

His patients, hundreds of poverty stricken children and adults who have fled war-torn Eritrea or other areas of Africa, wait fearful of the alien X-ray equipment and dental instruments.

For despite suffering from severe and painful facial and dental abscesses, most of the inhabitants of the dusty and humid refugee camp have never even heard of a dentist.

Dr Alaredy, who first visited Sudan in 2006 – when he donated the mobile dental surgery to Human Appeal International Sudan to serve the local villages – described his first impressions.

He said: “I went over with my brave nurse Lucy Wynne and remember being shocked to find the majority of people we treated have never seen a dentist in their lives and in fact didn’t know dentists even exist.

“Some of the refugees didn’t know how to sit on the dental chair and some of them asked us to take their teeth out without any anaesthetic as they didn’t know anaesthetic exists or what it was.

“The most common dental problems we came across were long term dental and facial abscesses which could be extremely painful and can lead to systemic septicemia.

“Sadly those patients had learned to get on with their lives and just ignore the serious risk of their dental abscess because they have no options, they were probably unaware it could even be treated.

“Since the first trip we have been out to other camps including Kassala, another area near the eastern border, and we have delivered as much medication as possible, including antibiotics and paracetamol along with toothpaste and toothbrushes.

“We even had to show them how to use toothbrushes because some of them had never seen one.”

Dr Alaredy, 39, said he had to treat more than 100 patients daily, starting work first thing in the morning and continuing until late into the night.

And the Lytham Road surgeon maintains the hardest part of his job is leaving the hundreds of other people waiting for treatment, hoping the team will return.

He said: “Watching the refugees and civilians walking around in such poverty due to the extreme dry and hot weather is indescribable and it is heartbreaking to turn your back and walk away.

“The little food they receive is distributed by the United Nation food programme and the water facilities are limited.

“We were shocked to know that during one visit the water, which is pumped out of a local well, was tested and a report showed the water was not even suitable for donkeys to drink.

“But unfortunately the refugee community have no other option than to drink this water and on top of that the sanitation facilities do not exist.”

Despite fears that those living in the camps and the many more crossing the Sahara on foot from Eritrea into Sudan will never know the type of life we enjoy, Dr Alaredy believes continued aid work can at least help refugees survive.

He said: “Our future plan is to raise enough money to hire dentists from Khartoum, the capital and largest city in Sudan, and to include more volunteer workers to run the unit in our absence.

“Last year we developed another programme to set up a cataract surgery team and with the help of some extremely generous people and the kindness of fundraisers, the project was started last year and 96 patients had cataract surgery carried out in a one week visit.

“I would encourage anyone wishing to make any donation to submit one to the Human Appeal International website as 100 per cent of this money will go to those people who need help.”

Dr Alaredy and his team work closely with the charity Human Appeal International which works alongside the United Nations and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

It has been working in Sudan since 1991 when the country was in the grip of a terrible civil war in which two million people died and four million Sudanese were displaced.

Jahangeer Akhtar, a project manager at Human Appeal International Sudan, said: “Dr Alaredy has done a lot of work with us and has done a lot to help people living in Sudan.

“The camp in which Dr Alaredy visited is one of the largest camps in Sudan where refugees who are escaping internal conflict or who lack basic essentials come.

“The camp has been there for many, many years and has looked after a generation of children, some born and raised there.

“Whenever there is conflict we tend to get a lot of refugees coming over the border and a lot of them are unaccompanied minors who are escaping national service and starvation.

“We also see farmers, who were forced to flee their homes and land, these communities have been stripped from their land with no opportunity to plant and grow their annual crops.

“We are hoping to bring more medical aid out to the area next year and will work with Dr Alaredy on this.”

n To support the charity in their work visit www.humanappeal.org.uk