In Ogatsu, where 83-year-old Kieko Shibata lives, there are no stores, banks or post offices: All of them were washed away in the March, 2011 tsunami. Health clinics, too, were destroyed—and since then, AmeriCares has been working to restore the health services so desperately needed by survivors.
A new dental clinic opened in early June, funded by a $220,000 AmeriCares grant, to help fill this urgent health care gap. Ogatsu patients had little access to dental care before the construction of the clinics, because local dental services had been wrecked along with the most of the area’s infrastructure. Ogatsu has a large number of elderly residents – a population often predisposed to dental problems, who were left especially vulnerable to tooth and gum infections and other complications.
Ms. Shibata was delighted to be the first patient treated at the Ogatsu clinic. When she arrived, her tooth was loose and in such poor condition that she had difficulty eating. She left with a beaming smile, finally having received the dental treatment she needed.
For patients like Ms. Shibata, proper oral care represents one critical step towards restoring a normal life. “I am happy that the dental clinic was opened, because it was very difficult for us to have to travel very far to get our teeth treated,” she said.
The clinic is one of three funded by AmeriCares. The other two opened their doors in October, 2011. Together, they will serve a population of more than 10,000 people and operate for up to ten years. The dental clinic grants are part of several long-term initiatives that AmeriCares has developed for the region in a targeted plan to expand and revitalize health care services that address the needs of survivors.