Mopheme/The Survivor (Maseru)

7 November 2000

Lesotho: Mabote Calls for Oral Health Policy

Maseru — Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Tefo Mabote urged the Oral Health Sector in the country to start thinking intelligently towards the development of an appropriate Oral Health Policy.

He said this at the Oral Health Awareness Week celebrations held at the Pitso ground on Friday with a march that started from Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The awareness week was launched on the 30 th October 2000.

He said the five Primary Health Care principles which are equitable distribution, community involvement, focus on prevention, appropriate technology and multi-sectoral approach should be a guideline not only towards provision of relevant Oral Health Services in Lesotho, but also ensure that these services reach all sections of Basotho.

"This compels us to also consider developing an appropriate Oral Health Policy, which will incorporate Oral Health into the existing Primary Health Personnel such as Dental Therapists, Oral Hygienists, Oral Health Promoters and others. I believe this direction will pave the way for many Basotho Dental students who are already studying in this region to return back to Lesotho with confidence and enthusiasm," he said.

He further said this also calls for a need to establish a training structure which will train Dental Therapists/ Oral Hygienists within Lesotho.

He added that Basotho, whose teeth once were very healthy, are now experiencing high rate of tooth decay and gum disease due to high level of sugar in their diet and other factors. He said ulcers and sores in the mouth and eating difficulties are on the increase as oral manifestation of HIV/AIDS becomes more frequent.

Mabote thanked the partnership of World Health Organisation (WHO) for the commitment towards achieving the important goal of better, Oral Health for all in Lesotho.

He added that in 1979, Lesotho became signatory to the declaration of Alma- Ata which established Primary Health care as a strategy to good health for all and that Lesotho recognizes Oral Health as a component of Primary Health Care.

He however said like most African countries, Lesotho has not been able to address Oral Health issues for various reasons, saying the main constraint has been and remains a shortage of appropriate and relevant Oral health care personnel at all levels of health care system.

The minister said there are dental Therapists, Community Oral Health Officers, dental laboratory Technicians, Dental Assistants and Oral Health promoters who total 31, all Basotho who are supposed to serve the whole population of 2.2 million in the country.

Speaking at the same occasion, Dr. Sahine Peerbhai of the Queen II hospital said the main objective of the awareness week is to conduct Oral Health activities for a week in all the districts.

"At this time we provide valuable services to everyone around the country as well as giving out information on protecting teeth and knowing all there is to know about them. We want to integrate Oral health in the existing family health structure," he said.

The occasion was also marked by giving an award to the senior most local dentist Dr. Molefi Thelejane while Mr. Nthethe Tau was awarded for being the senior most dental person in Lesotho.

Schoolchildren present at the occasion were given toothbrushes for free demonstrations on washing teeth and were also checked for free.

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