Access to quality healthcare remains a major concern in the remote villages of Chitral, where people drive hours to access primary health care services. TKN volunteer Dr Ali Hussain Khan, founder and CEO of Noor Dental Clinic, took on the daunting task of providing for the region’s oral health care needs.

The Aga Khan Health Service (AKHS) in Pakistan worked with the Ismaili Council for Pakistan’s TKN team to seek a qualified dental consultant to volunteer in Chitral. They eventually selected Dr Ali.

Hailing from Upper Chitral, Dr Ali, an advocate of Oral Health in Pakistan, recently designed a portable dental unit. “The unit can be easily transported even to far-flung areas and it is also field-proven to deliver A-dec reliability. The unit comes with an x-ray, a dental chair, and a B-class autoclave machine,” he said.

Dr Ali and his team implemented a plan to organise outreach clinics in remote villages and valleys with the support of AKHS. The dental camps were conducted from 15-25 October 2021 and covered a number of villages, including Booni, Chuinj, Brep, Bang, and Harchin, in Upper Chitral, and Shoghor, Garam Chashma, Madaklasht, in Lower Chitral. Despite extreme weather conditions, the visiting team examined more than 2,000 patients and conducted 1,500 procedures, including root canal therapy, fixed prosthesis, fillings, gum treatment, scaling and polishing, surgical extractions, and emergency procedures.

Sharing his experience, Dr Ali observed that, “Oral health is an emerging challenge in Chitral. Due to improper means of getting dental care, people are contracting HIV and other diseases. I appeal to dentists to respond to the challenge of providing a solution to oral health issues in Chitral.”

The visiting team also delivered oral health education sessions on infections and oral hygiene, and helped with the identification of qualified dentists. Capacity building of lady health visitors and nurses, who assisted during this project, was also prioritised in order to respond to the community’s basic oral health needs and refer patients to dentists at the Regional Health Centre Mastuj and Aga Khan Medical Centre, Booni. The team also visited schools to conduct free oral health check-ups and awareness sessions for students and teachers.

The mobile dental clinics were greatly welcomed by members of the Jamat who were among the beneficiaries. Exemplary TKN volunteers like Dr Ali, along with their teams, are making a significant impact in improving the health care of remote communities in remote areas. Their generous contributions are immensely appreciated by the local communities and institutional leaders.

Imtiaz Alam, President of the Ismaili Council for Upper Chitral, noted: “This was an eye-opening experience to learn about the link between oral health and diabetes and vice-versa. We hope to have this very dedicated team back again.”