Sally Simpson – Day 1

The dental charity in the UK and overseas

Well, we arrived very late last night, so today has been spent orientating ourselves in Moria Refugee Camp and setting up our dental clinic. Our base for our trip is a small prefabricated shipping container size room that will serve as our clinic. Here we’ve squeezed the 5 of us (plus our patients tomorrow) two portable dental chairs, all the equipment, a decontamination area for instruments and a triage and waiting area for the refugees. We will see people in acute pain, provide screening and limited dental and emergency treatments and visit the camp community centre to deliver health education talks and give away donated health supplies to those in need.
We also have toys and craft activities to donate for the children and adults, which I thought might help raise moral and relieve boredom for the camp residents. The biggest blow was that we have NO running water, something we thought we would have at the very least. We do have a power source though. 

Unfortunately, the camp suffered a catastrophic fire just before we arrived, conditions are so cramped that fires spread quickly and can be difficult to control. Conditions are desperate with this population staying in groups and families in prefab buildings and in around 870 tents – these are tiny ‘pop up’ tents that we would only house one person in here sleep families of six.

Even outside our prefab, the walkway is crammed with tents, washing and bedding hanging across our windows, tarps as shelter and small children playing and their parents keeping one eye on them and one eye on us and our activities with growing interest. We are reliably informed the whole camp knows we have arrived and to expect a queue tomorrow when we open our clinic doors! The Moria refugee camp is everything I expected, noisy, smelly, cramped and hot but the charity workers and its refugee residents are friendly, helpful and patient. I’m stunned by how many woman (some heavily pregnant), babies and small children are here, having made such perilous journeys from their war-torn countries. From the outside, the camp is very imposing – huge fences with razor wire, like a prison and very strict security. The refugee residents are housed in sections according to their country of origin for their own safety and we hear that by and large it is harmonious considering the cramped conditions and religious and cultural differences.

Day 2

Today was a good and productive day! Our little team was a well-oiled machine by the end of the day. We bought our essentials and as predicted opened our doors to an orderly line of lovely people to make better! It’s amazing what you can achieve with teamwork! We had a lovely Euro Relief assistant who helped organise everyone into an orderly appointment system and everyone very patiently waited their turn. Treatment has been varied but mainly split between 3 distinct types:
1. Emergency extractions due to acute or chronic pain from caries or periodontal disease.
2. Periodontal disease treatment – both acute and chronic
3. Temporary restorations to provide relief until further care can be sought We’ve lots of medications with us, so are able to dole out pain relief and antibiotics where needed.
The biggest issue is sanitation. The water is still not on. So, whilst the refugees are hydrated with bottled water, the loos are unspeakable (for us and the refugees) and washing facilities non-existent. We haven’t quite got to the bottom of the reason for this yet… but it’s totally mad that we have perfect WiFi and no water!! Translators are also a bit thin on the ground, but we’ve muddled through with a combination of sign language (hilarious at times!) diagrams, friends and relatives or complete strangers that happen to be there helping us.

Sally Simpson
Dental Hygienist and Therapist,
Dentaid Volunteer Emergency Relief Team
Moria Refugee Camp, Lesvos, Greece

Volunteer Greece