PHASE Nepal specialises in working in extremely remote areas; places without basic infrastructure and services. When PHASE first started working in Maila in 2008, there hadn’t been a functioning health service there for many years. One of the most common complaints was from people suffering from toothache. Toothache is painful and debilitating and can reduce quality of life considerably, especially when there are no dentists and not even access to painkillers.
The PHASE healthworkers in Maila have a very basic level of medical training, but as the only medical staff in a 60km radius they have to act as doctors, midwives, counsellors, paramedics, educators and even dentists. All PHASE healthworkers take a basic course in dentistry, and PHASE healthposts are equipped with a set of dental equipment. Every month, several patients come to the healthpost in Maila with oral health or dental problems.
Bachu Jaisi was one. He is 24 and unmarried. He was suffering from toothache for 4 days before he decided to make the two-and-a-half hour trek to the healthpost in Maila.
“It was really painful,” he remembers. “I couldn’t eat anything at all and my mouth was so swollen I even had problems talking. I made some medicine myself out of local herbs such as titopati and neem, but it didn’t really help. I had heard that the staff in the healthpost had the instruments to pull teeth, and I thought that was what I needed, so I went to see them.”
PHASE healthworker Phelu examined Bachu’s mouth and discovered that the problem was not the tooth but a swollen abscess. Instead of losing the tooth, all Bachu needed was a course of antibiotics and some ibroprofen for the swelling and the pain. He was happy to not to have to lose his tooth!
“The medicine started to work really quickly. Within a few days I could talk and eat like normal. It was such a relief! I won’t bother trying to make medicine at home anymore now I know that the medicine in the healthpost works so well. Also, the workers there are kind and friendly.”
Even more important than the dental treatment provided in the healthpost is the preventative work undertaken by the healthworkers, in the form of oral health education.
“So many people in Maila have problems with their teeth and gums,” says healthworker Deepa. “Even when people come to the healthpost for other reasons I try to talk to them about oral health. Lots of people smoke here, that’s one reason, and just a lack of understanding of how to take care of their teeth.”
Oral hygiene is a common topic for the regular health education sessions in Maila. The healthworkers say that more and more people are being convinced to brush their teeth at least once a day, although they estimate it is still way below half the population. For those not wanting to use scarce resources on a toothbrush and toothpaste, there are local alternatives that work nearly as well. Many people have started to clean their teeth with twigs from the medicinal neem tree, frayed to make a kind of brush, which works nearly as well
Your donation has been crucially important in keeping this essential health service open. The healthpost treats thousands of patients like Bachu, who would otherwise have not been able get relief or treatment for very simple conditions.
To those of you for whom December is a festive period, please consider sharing some of your goodwill and cheer with the people of Maila. As you have seen, a small donation goes a long way – an average consultation, including staffing and medicine, costs under $3 and frequently saves lives.
This December please consider:
- Making a small donation for the people of Maila to continue to have a health service over the harsh winter months
- Buying healthcare for Maila as a gift for friends and family (comes with personalised card)
Standing in solidarity with the people of Maila,
Jiban, Claire and the PHASE Nepal Team