The whole hospital was an empty vessel, built to provide facilities for nearby Nagorno Karabahk and unused since the fighting and the closing down of the rail-link. The derelict rooms, hundreds of them, eerily waiting for non-existent patients and, outside, three quarters of a million refugees pleading for help!
One NGO has provided a centre for education on women's health in a few rooms in a wing of the hospital. Now a few more rooms are transformed into a centre for oral health under the direction of S., the dentist from Operation Mercy.
Having flown the equipment to Baku in an Antonov aircraft, via Belgium, Dentaid sent T., their engineer to make sure that it arrived safely and was installed correctly. When the surgery was opened, lines of refugees presented themselves showing the almost overwhelming scale of the need for dental care. If S. is not to be dispirited by continually doing emergency dentistry on his own, he will need more help to develop a primary oral health care service. He needs nurses and community workers to help him develop oral health education programmes. Firstly with mothers and children, then with the whole community. But attitudes to dietary and lifestyle change for oral health are immense problems when refugees are living in such appalling conditions.
Operation Mercy's Country Director for Azerbaijan is well aware of the difficulties and the need for qualified staff to carry out a variety of tasks. He has also been working for the political support, both from within and outside the community, without which any worthwhile community development projects could not proceed.
On my last visit I met several of the community leaders who were very much in support of the programme and I also met Mr. O., Regional Minister of Health, who provided the rooms at the hospital. He is so keen for the programme to develop that he has set aside as many rooms in the hospital as will be needed for the project.
We need more funds urgently to enable us to develop the long-term support that this programme requires. J., a volunteer dentist has just returned from a visit to help train S. in the use of the new equipment.