November 2015: A decision was made to shift the focus of emergency medical care to the borders of Greece. At this time, the conflict in Syria had received a burst of media attention and computer screens and televisions screamed with footage of the hundreds of refugees arriving at Greece’s borders. The UN and larger NGOs provided only limited help in this time and the local Greek community were doing what they could. It became apparent more hands on deck were needed to help manage the refugee crisis that was happening in Greece. This spurred Dr Aslam to gather a team of volunteers with healthcare backgrounds to set up a ‘field hospital’ on a site that was not officially recognised as a refugee camp. By teaming up with another grassroots organisation, a large tent was erected on ‘olive grove’ containing; a triage bay, pharmacy, minor surgery room and relaxation area where patients and volunteers would receive psychosocial support. HPF were treating a total of 300-400 patients per day and a further 30 patients during medical outreach sessions. It became clear that around twenty-percent of all medical cases seen were actually in need of urgent dental care. With no dental resources or services available in the region, Dr Aslam made a decision to call in an old university friend and dentist, Dr Ola Hassan, to set up the first dental clinic.
December 2015: Dr Hassan arrived in Lesbos, equipped with 6 suitcases of donated supplies, a sterilising oven, and the project’s first dental volunteer. The pop-up clinic was set up within the confines of the field hospital – Dental-Point Project was now ready to accept patients. As the only accessible dental clinic, patients would queue out in the cold for hours to seek help whilst dental volunteers worked from morning to midnight treating them. Cases ranged from toothaches to abscesses and infections – all of which were managed under a limited resource setting.
March 2016 onwards: An urgent call was made by other Medical NGOs, for HPF to set up a dental facility in Idomeni - by the Greek-Macedonian border - where an estimated 20,000 refugees were stranded. HPF responded to the call. Since the evacuation of the Idomeni site and the relocation of refugees into military run camps and other temporary housing locations in northern Greece, the dental arm of HPF has been extremely active and is providing a 6-day a week mobile service. We are still the only dental care providers with a consistent presence on ground in northern Greece, and as such continue to receive unprecedented requests to fulfil the dental needs in other camps. Our clinical service is also supplemented with dental educational sessions - lead by Dr Maniza Malook – which focus on oral health promotion and disease prevention. Our clinical service is also supplemented with dental educational sessions lead by Dr Maniza Malook – which focus on oral health promotion and disease prevention. The Education Point Project, another arm to the HPF initially began in December 2015 in Lesvos, Greece. It was designed to train volunteers in BLS and management of other common medical presentations in the refugee camps. The sessions have since covered not just medical and dental health education but also psychological support for volunteers on ground. HPF have held events globally at different venues including schools and universities, raising awareness of refugee crisis, providing first-hand experience and challenges of working in this field, in UAE, UK, and USA. Our ground team work tirelessly around the clock to locate those who need the services as well as help coordinate the arrival of dental professionals and translators who all take time out to provide their skills on a voluntary basis. We have learnt to become adaptable and our pop up clinics are run from within small tents or spaces given to us within warehouses and hotel rooms. Since 2015 we endeavour to go where the need is and can only continue this with your support.