June 1, 2014
Hello, fellow dental colleagues, and greetings from Afghanistan. For eleven years, I have been working as a dentist and humanitarian in Afghanistan. I started just after the Taliban were expelled from the government, in 2003. Afghanistan’s technical and economic infrastructure were destroyed by the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in 1979, when almost all of the businessmen, educators, scientists, manufacturers, doctors, investors, and dentists left the country to save their lives.
They never went back, leaving Afghanistan with only workers and poor people. This is basically the way it still is, a nation incapable of sustaining itself independently. For Afghanistan to recover, its infrastructure needs to be rebuilt. There are a little over 100 dentists in Afghanistan to serve a population of over 34 million, or one dentist for 250,000 patients. Most Afghans live in rural areas, while most dentists practice in urban areas. In Afghanistan ninety percent of the population cannot access a dentist in their area. As a result, dentally-induced septicemia is common, and a significant factor in the high mortality rate.
I personally saw that the military approach was not going to aid the poor people, so I planned a trip there to help out. Putting together a flyable dental clinic, I went from sea-level California to 11,000-feet Wardak Province in the Hindu Kush, where I provided treatment for about 40 orphan boys for two weeks, and the local population for the next week. I did not speak the Pashto language, but they were very interested in what I was doing, so I had each one assist me for one treatment, and I was amazed by each boy’s aptitude for the task. Seeing them in that remote place without promise of a future, without shoes, abandoned, impressed me deeply. I learned that there are over three million orphans in Afghanistan.
After the two weeks passed, I began to see people from the local village for dental problems, and observed that many of them were on the verge of death, with seven or eight chronically abscessed teeth. I inquired how this condition could occur chronically, and was told that there was no dental care available in the entire province (with the exception of the local barber, without anesthetic or any sterility). Seeing the need of the Afghan people, the enthusiasm of the orphan boys coupled with their aptitude for dental work, I returned to California and constructed a modern dental clinic in a shipping container, sent it to Afghanistan filled with supplies, hired dentists and staff, and opened a free clinic for poor Afghans which provided basic dental care. A school was started at the same time, training orphans, widows, handicapped, disadvantaged young adults, and socially-disadvantaged class of Hazara to be students at no cost to study dental assisting, dental lab technology, and dental hygienist. Students with the highest aptitudes were hired to work in the clinic, which now has twelve employees and has treated over 100,000 patients since its inception. All this was done at no cost to the patient. In addition, the Kabul School of Dental Technology has graduated many classes of dental assistants, lab technicians, and hygienists, all of them the first professionally-trained dental technicians in Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan Dental Relief Project, Inc. is working to restore the missing dental infrastructure in Afghanistan. Using the existing dentists to their full potential is an essential part of our plan. We can provide trained technicians to assist Afghan dentists to treat more patients more safely and better. To do that, we are taking our project to a new level now.
We have obtained permission from the Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health to self-fund our project. We are now allowed to provide more-complex, non-basic dental services to Afghans for a fee, such as endodontic treatment or prosthetic restorations. In addition, we can provide treatment for non-Afghans for the fee that they would pay in Dubai, UAE. Only sixteen treatments of non-Afghans will pay for all the monthly expenses of the project. So we are building a new clinic to provide this treatment. Foreign dentists are now going there to train the Afghan dentists in these complex procedures. The clinic will be the stellar dental facility in Kabul, and its existence will guarantee vital funding for our program to help rebuild the dental infrastructure in Afghanistan.
We can do this simply, by building another shipping container clinic, only larger and more modern, or we can build a permanent structure. We have the land now, given to us by the Kabul Government at no cost. We have completely developed the land with utilities, and our free clinic is now on that land, providing the so-vital free services.
We have, ready to ship, two modern operatories of Chinese top-of-the-line equipment, as well as thirty tons of new and used dental equipment and supplies, valued at over $2 Million. Included in this shipment are five new x-ray machines, a complete removable metal lab, programmable porcelain oven and two porcelain kits, denture processors, implant kits, and about five years’ worth of dental and lab supplies.
Being involved with this project is a lot of fun for me, and quite an adventure. You can imagine some of the challenges that you would have to deal with, to do this. I cannot think of a more-rewarding experience, however, one that has certainly changed my life. You might find some interest and satisfaction working with us to achieve our goals. We need to raise some money to build the new clinic, ship the equipment and supplies, and train the Afghan dentists to do modern high-tech procedures. Would you like to be a part of it? We really need some financial help, whatever you can spare. If you can help us a lot, we can even put your name on the clinic. Want to teach? We will be having dental practitioners of all persuasions coming as guests to teach and to provide treatment. How about being a part of this exciting and meaningful project by considering what you can do, and let me know at email firstname.lastname@example.org? You can contact me by telephone at 805-963-2329. Please access the Website at www.adrpinc.org, which has a PayPal donation site for your convenience. Don’t hesitate to contact me personally for any reason.
Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to working with you soon.
James G. Rolfe, DDS
Afghanistan Dental Relief Project, Inc.
A 501C3 Non-Profit Charitable Corporation
31 East Canon Perdido Street; Santa Barbara, CA 93101