Oral Health Group

Dental Professor Helps Provide Free Care, Fuel and Supplies for Thousands of Syrian Refugees Throughout Pandemic

May 3, 2021
by The University at Buffalo

A global pandemic could not deter UB professor Othman Shibly from delivering supplies and oral health care to Syrians who have become refugees or been displaced by the ongoing war in Syria.

Through the UB Global Miles for Smiles program, Shibly, DDS, clinical professor in the UB School of Dental Medicine, traveled to Lebanon from April 2-11 to deliver critical oral health care and medical supplies, and to train community health care workers to provide dental care.

The mission follows an initiative he 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.

UB professor Othman Shibly provides dental care to a patient.

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,” he said. “I decided that UB Global Miles for Smiles should not stand still and wait for the pandemic to end to resume its services.”

“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.”

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.
  • Worked with MAPS to donate food baskets and fuel to more than 2,300 refugee families in Lebanon.
  • With the support of MedGlobal, hired a nutritionist and additional community health care workers to provide oral health care at refugee camps in Lebanon. The team of health care workers supported by UB Global Miles for Smiles is now six, and includes a dentist, nutritionist and four community health care workers.
  • Through training, increased the efficiency of community health care workers to 70 patients treated per day, up from last year’s average of 40 patients per day.
  • Provided oral health care supplies to refugee camps that were 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 health care needs may receive free dental care at fully-equipped dental clinics in nearby cities. Transportation is provided by MAPS.

The continued success of UB Global Miles for Smiles is gaining attention and support around the world.

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.

The Alliance for Oral Health Across Borders is helping expand care through UB Global Miles for Smiles to populations in Liberia and Uganda.

About The University at Buffalo

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. UB’s nearly 30,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities. Website: buffalo.edu/news

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