After our 2-week mission treating Masai and neighboring communities in Karatu town, just outside of the Norongoro Crater in Tanzania, part of our team returned to the US. MRI then traveled by air to Kampala, Uganda. Together we joined the leadership of New Hope Uganda from their orphanage homes and school in Kobwin, Uganda and continued by bus traveling and working in the Luwero Triangle, Uganda’s Killing Field where villagers fled for their lives as Joseph Kony led the Lord’s Resistance Army to terrorize villages, burning homes and enslaving the children as his child soldiers and army sex slaves, and also enduring raiding by Karimojong. We spent the next 2 weeks providing dental care to orphans and villagers in the rural village of Kobwin, and those living in the long-term refugee camp town of Amuria.
In Uganda, while we lived without power, we did bring generators so were able to have power in the clinic. In Kobwin, New Hope Uganda has an “orphanage”, a group home of thatched living quarters, specific to young boys and young men who had were kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army under Joseph Kony and lived as child soldiers until they were rescued or escaped. For these young men the whose child hood was tortured, stolen and abused, the hurt and pain of the horror they have seen and participated in gouges the heart so deeply it is hard to breathe. MRI provided care in Kobwin to the orphans and community providing a large range of surgical and restorative dental services. In Kobwin, the team slept in thatched huts of the boys home orphanage on bunk beds using our own mosquito nets. Local women cooked in large pots on open fire preparing excellent meals. Kobwin has a government health nurse for maternity related issues, but there was no opportunity for care of any disease of the head and neck possible for them The need was great, and the lines and flow of care unending, as were the outpouring of grateful thanks and warm hand shakes, hugs and smiles.
Traveling further west we arrived in Amria in the Teso Region. The poverty and lack of human comfort in Amuria was greater than anywhere MRI had ever been. Amuria is a long standing refugee camp, an outcome of terror and war from the Lord’s Resistance Army, then raiding by Karimojong, a flood in 2007 and by extreme drought since that time. As a result the people have never been able to recover, and are still living in very desperate conditions with poor access to food and clean water. Where water exists to the south, malarial parasite exists, and the prevalence of villagers with malaria was extremely high. Our “reception room” was a large staging circle of triaged patients seated around a hard wood tree. Here the needs for pain relief were truly unending. We invited the local woman who is the dentist/midwife for Amuria to observe in our clinic and work with Dr. Loree. She came equipped with her entire “office” carried in a plastic bag. Within the bag, she had a partially used vial of lidocaine, an old stainless steel syringe with needle, a dental forceps, and a record book with neatly described names and dates of her patients gong back several years. She was the mother of 8, and also had 8 teeth remaining. Dr. Bill made her an upper front partial denture, and we left her with surgical equipment, anesthetic and latex gloves.
In this month of patient care over 2000 dental patients were treated for their two quadrants of greatest pain. We came home happy and tired with amazing memories, new friends and the need to return in our hearts.