On January 17, 2024, the Department of Oral Health collaborated with key health development partners at the EOC conference hall, Cockrill in Freetown, joining efforts to contribute comprehensively to the formulation of Sierra Leone’s National Oral Health Strategic Plan. This pivotal kickoff meeting, organized by the World Health Organization – Sierra Leone Country Office in collaboration with the Government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Health, aimed to discuss and emphasize the formulation and significance of the National Oral Health Strategic Plan (NOHSP).
The meeting’s objective was to garner insights and recommendations that would be instrumental in shaping the NOHSP for Sierra Leone. Among the anticipated outcomes, participants were expected to grasp the importance of Oral Health and the NOHSP in achieving Universal Health Coverage in Sierra Leone. Additionally, they were to familiarize themselves with the Oral Health landscape of Sierra Leone and contribute valuable inputs to the results of the situation analysis.
In his welcoming address, Dr. Santigi Sesay, the chairman of the meeting and Director for Non-communicable Diseases (NCD), emphasized the collective concern for Oral Health and underscored the necessity for increased awareness. Dr. Sesay highlighted the absence of Oral Health service centers in certain districts as a significant challenge in health service delivery.
Dr. Sesay encouraged the Department of Oral Health to persist in engaging health stakeholders to bring about positive changes in the Oral Health landscape in Sierra Leone. He then invited all participants to actively participate in discussions aimed at promoting Oral Health in the country.
Dr. Alhassan Sheriff, a staff member at the Department of Oral Health, emphasized the long-standing neglect of oral health issues and called for immediate action to instigate positive change.
Charles Mambu, Executive Director of Health For All Coalition, urged everyone to contribute to the popularization of oral health, recognizing it as a public health concern that requires prompt attention. He emphasized the need for effective implementation of strategic plans to bring about a better Sierra Leone.
The Executive Director encouraged the Department of Oral Health to champion the campaign until the National Oral Health Strategic Plan document is not only developed but also successfully implemented.
Contributions from representatives of the Inter-religious Council, traditional healers, and the Civil Society played a crucial role in the successful conclusion of the meeting. Notably, it was revealed that the WHO standard recommended a ratio of one dentist per 4,500 people, presenting a challenge in Sierra Leone where only four qualified dental surgeries serve approximately eight million people, resulting in a ratio of one dentist to two million people.