Commonwealth’s intervention could be seen timely as there are only 11 dentists to meet the oral health needs of over 5.5 million people in Sierra Leone.
The deplorable state of Sierra Leone’s oral health system was yesterday disclosed at the start of a three-day workshop on National Policy for Dental and Oral Health Care Services for Sierra Leone at the Kimbima Hotel in Freetown.
“Sierra Leone’s dental and oral health care services and programmes are extremely under-resourced. There are 11 dentists trying to meet the oral health needs of over 5.5 million people; four dentists are in private practice in Freetown, and seven worked in government clinics, while five are based in Freetown and one in Bo and Kenema; as for the Northern Province there are no trained dentists available to the population. In part this is because during the war the clinic facilities were destroyed,” disclosed Dr Samuel Thorpe.
The Commonwealth Secretariat representative, Judy McNeill, gave a broad overview of the work of the secretariat. She explained that the Commonwealth Service Abroad Programme (CSAP) was an innovative volunteer-based programme of the Governance and Institutional Development Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat for delivering development assistance to member countries.
CSAP assists in the design, development and implementation of people-centered, mass-impact project that contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. This work is being implemented collaboratively with the ministry of Health and Sanitation and the Health Section of the Social Transformation Programmes Division of the Secretariat who has provided technical support in the design and delivery of this project.
However to address this Sierra Leone oral health crisis, the ministry of Health and Sanitation requested technical assistance from the Commonwealth Secretariat to develop a policy for dental health care service in the country. Dental health care in the country is reported to be heavily under resourced with only few qualified dental health workers within the public sector. There is therefore a recognized need for a strategic policy to develop the Dental and Oral Health Care services and define the direction of the services in the country, while identifying the resources needed to make this happen.
One of the major barriers to the improvement of oral health in the African region is seen by the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Africa as the absence, in many countries, of a clear statement of oral health policy to guide national oral health activities.
Prior to around 1995 approaches to oral health in the majority of countries in the region consisted of the provision of unplanned, ad hoc and spasmodic curative dental services.