In the Palestinian Territories, where the proportion of people with disabilities is very high (according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and Ministry of Social Affairs in 2011 there were approximately 170,000 handicapped people), disability is frequently seen as a taboo, as something to be ashamed of: this is due in large part to cultural heritage, often compounded by ignorance and a lack of appropriate structures for providing assistance to the disabled.
In this regard, education concerning proper personal and dental hygiene is not a high priority in the Palestinian socio-educational and health system, and dental care for those with disabilities, who by definition have special requirements, is virtually nonexistent.
This problem is now being addressed by the creation of an appropriately-equipped specialized dental clinic, the result of a collaboration between Lifegate – an NGO which manages a rehabilitation center for disabled children that it founded in 1991 – and ATS pro Terra Sancta, with financing provided by the Otto per Mille della Tavola Valdese (Eight per Thousand of the Waldensian ‘Table’). The inauguration took place on 16 December, in the presence of fra Nerwan Al Banna, a Franciscan parish priest in Bethlehem, and representatives of Lifegate and ATS pro Terra Sancta. Many of the young people who are being treated at the rehabilitation center where the clinic has been opened have never previously had the possibility of dental care, due to its excessive cost.
The clinic, the first of its kind in the Palestinian Territories, is divided into three basic areas: a zone for examinations and dental operations, a waiting room, and a room for the nursing staff where the young patients can be anesthetized.
The project also provides for staff training and for outreach activities for external users, focusing on teaching children and young people how to take care of personal and dental hygiene both at home and outside the home.