November 15th, 2016 by ANERA
In the impoverished refugee camps of Lebanon’s northern Akkar region, dental health care isn’t much more than a dream for young Syrians. A UNHCR survey found that Syrian refugee children are four times less likely to receive dental health care than the local Lebanese host community. In the harsh conditions of refugee camps, oral health tends to take a backseat to more primary concerns.
“Ideally, kids should get regular dental health check-ups,” said Abdo Sharrouf, a father of five who fled Syria two years ago. “But we can’t afford that with the poor conditions we’re living in.”
With funding from Direct Relief, ANERA has expanded its Pearl Beads oral health project to give even more refugees dental care. The program entails teeth screening and treatment for children in more than 10 locations in northern Lebanon. It will focus on kids living in tented settlements and will benefit over 300 children from ages 3 to 12.
Colorful Clowns Teach Kids How to Brush their Teeth
The Pearl Beads program also includes health awareness activities designed to entertain young refugees. One activity is an educational circus show with colorful clowns, props and even a full-blown circus tent.
Through their comedic performance, the clowns teach children how to practice proper dental hygiene and make nutritional food choices. The performances take place in eight different tented settlements, where they are sure to shine against the hardships of growing up in a refugee camp.
Giving Child Refugees Dental Care for the First Time
Eight-year-old Younes was spotted brushing his teeth as he returned to his tent after the show.
In a recent performance, children’s eyes sparkled with amusement as the three clowns emerged. The play told the story of three friends who face harsh conditions while living in a refugee camp. Their tent wobbles under strong winds and rain, and the small space makes it difficult to look after belongings. These are relatable circumstances for the Syrian refugee children of Lebanon. And within this familiar setting, the clowns demonstrate how to brush your teeth and pick healthy foods.
“I’m going to register my name for the upcoming screening,” said nine-year-old Aya, after watching the show in Rihaniye village. Abdo’s son, eight-year-old Younes, was spotted brushing his teeth as he returned to his tent after the show.
Hadi Deaibes, an actor that is experienced working with refugees, described the show as “specifically designed in a way to which refugee children can relate.” He added, “a circus show is a fun activity for children, and we are able to communicate and demonstrate positive health messages through a tailor-made performance.”