Cambodia - Outreach programme for improving oral health of under privileged children in Sihanoukville


Street children in Sihanoukville, Cambodia among other priorities are also in great need for health and oral health promotion and care. M'Lop Tapang is an NGO created in 2003 with a goal of providing these children access to learning tools and opportunities they need to build a better future. M'Lop Tapang offers regular meals, shelter, medical including dental care, education, counselling, and protection from all types of abuse.

Dr Karin Jonsson, a Swedish dentist, works as the resident consultant dentist for the programme providing much needed oral health education and care for the street children since 2007.

M'Lop Tapang, now in 2009, works with 2000 street living and working children and their families in nine centres in the Sihanoukville area. As part of their activities, twice a week the "library bus" (named so because it provides education through their activities) visits under privileged areas around the town, meeting the children and their families.

While providing services related to education and counselling, once a year, oral health education and screening is provided for the children.

Programme Outline
There are eight areas which the outreach programme visits regularly. Dr Jonsson accompanies the programme once a year to the eight areas.
The volunteers and staff of the M'Lop Tapang are provided oral health education and correct nutrition in the prevention of dental caries (eg- avoid snacking on sweets) by Dr Jonsson before the programme began so as to educate the educators.

Arriving at the area by the library bus, the children are gathered and volunteers and trained young men and women talk to the children about what they could do and what they should not have to do, thereby educating them against abuse.

Dr Jonsson sets up her teaching materials and provides them oral health education and oral health advice, through her able assistant Ms Bopreak, who interprets her message into Khmer.

As teaching tools, models of teeth and tooth brushes and stories of happy and sad teeth are enacted.

Also discussed are the healthy alternative to sweets and sweetened drinks by showing how the happy tooth likes fresh fruites and vegetables.

Simple screening is performed by visual examination using mirror and spot lamp and those needing further care are registered.

These registered children are brought to the dental clinic in Sihanoukville by the volunteers the next week, when they visit the area.

Dr Jonsson provides dental care in the clinic to these children, which are mainly restorations including ART and extractions.

Every year, since the outreach programme commenced, on an average, 20 to 25 children from each of the eight areas, making a total of 160- 200, have been given dental care.

By providing oral health education to the staff and volunteers of the M'Lop Tapang organization, the whole group of staff are trained to practice good oral health and healthy eating habits.

By improving oral health, preventing dental diseases and educating healthy life style including good oral hygiene to the under privileged children of Sihanoukville, severe pain and discomfort arising from dental diseases are being reduced in this group.

Continuous efforts are needed in uplifting these children's living standards and quality of lives.

CAPP wishes to thank Dr Karin Jonsson for providing us the logistical help. Some of the photographs were kindly provided by Dr Jonsson for this presentation. We also wish to thank the staff of the M'Lop Tapang for their enthusiasm and cooperation which enabled us to present this project.