Othman Shibly, DDS, of the University at Buffalo (UB) School of Dental Medicine traveled to Lebanon in April to provide oral healthcare to Syrians who are now refugees. He also delivered medical supplies and trained community healthcare workers in providing dental care as well.
The mission follows an initiative Shibly completed in January and February to deliver heating fuel throughout the winter to nearly 1,200 families in Lebanon and 87 schools that enroll more than 31,000 children in northwest Syria.
As part of the UB Global Miles for Smiles program, the initiatives were supported by the Syrian American Medical Society Foundation, the Henry Schein Cares Foundation, Multi Aid Programs (MAPs), Ihsan Relief and Development, MedGlobal, and MouthWatch.
“During the pandemic, all of our dental missions ceased due to travel restrictions, but people’s needs do not stop, especially at this difficult time,” said Shibly, who has traveled to Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq to provide aid to refugees and displaced people since 2012.
“Refugees and the internally displaced population in Lebanon and north Syria suffered the most during the pandemic and winter. Host communities and local governments almost collapsed under the pandemic, making life worse for vulnerable populations,” said Shibly.
“I decided that UB Global Miles for Smiles should not stand still and wait for the pandemic to end to resume its services,” he said.
“Given the current weather conditions, we have seen a spike in infectious diseases among children, causing them to miss school,” said Bahaa El-Din Al-Jassem, director of the Al-Kalana School in Syria.
“Thanks to these heating supplies provided for classrooms, students are now able to come to school, finish the semester, and stay warm in the face of unimaginable challenges,” Al-Jassem said.
During the pandemic, UB Global Miles for Smiles has partnered with the Syrian American Medical Society Foundation and Ihsan Relief and Development to raise $100,000, $10,000 of which was provided by UB, to provide 145,000 liters of fuel to 87 schools in northwest Syria
UB Global Smiles also worked with MAPs to donate food baskets and fuel to more than 2,300 refugee families in Lebanon.
With the support of MedGlobal, UB Global Miles for Smiles hired a nutritionist and additional community healthcare workers to provide oral healthcare at refugee camps in Lebanon. There are now six healthcare workers supported by UB Global Miles for Smiles, including a dentist, nutritionist, and four community healthcare workers.
Through training, UB Global Miles for Smiles also has increased the efficiency of community healthcare workers to 70 patients treated per day, up from last year’s average of 40 patients per day. Additionally, UB Global Miles for Smiles has:
- Provided oral healthcare supplies to refugee camps donated by the Henry Schein Cares Foundation
- Received teledentistry technology from MouthWatch and the Henry Schein Cares Foundation to provide and evaluate dental care from abroad
- Received iPads from MAPs to assist with logging and monitoring patient oral health progress
- Created a patient referral system so that children with greater oral healthcare needs may receive free dental care at fully equipped dental clinics in nearby cities with transportation provided by MAPs
The continued success of UB Global Miles for Smiles is gaining attention and support around the world, UB said.
MAPs aims to collaborate with the American University of Beirut to replicate the program, but with a focus on providing free vision and hearing care, eyeglasses, and hearing aids for children who are refugees or have been displaced.
Also, the Alliance for Oral Health Across Borders is helping expand care through UB Global Miles for Smiles to populations in Liberia and Uganda.