Sepikers Face Long, Costly Travel For Dentistry

EAST SEPIK PROVINCE, Papua New Guinea — Julie Weiputhy had suffered from a chronic toothache since 2010. She lives in a remote village far away from dental professionals who can provide relief by extracting the tooth. It would take weeks to reach a clinic if she traveled by foot (the mode of transportation for most people here) and such a trip would be treacherous.

As a substitute for expert treatment, Julie resorted to homespun remedies to cope with her pain. She would boil a coconut skin, apply it to the rotten tooth by biting down, and allow the heat to numb her tooth. This worked to help give her respite from discomfort for a few days.

Last summer, Julie attempted to make the long journey from the center of East Sepik Province to the coastal city of Wewak where she could go to a hospital and have her tooth removed. It would be no simple expedition as it takes at least two days to get to Wewak, see a dentist, and return home. Julie must make the trip via a public motor vehicle, which requires overnight stops during which time passengers sleep on the bus.

For a mere trip to see a dentist, Julie will spend 20 kina. This amount is about four day’s wages for most Papua New Guineans. It would be the financial equivalent of an American flying from Los Angeles to New York and back to visit a dentist.

To afford the trip, Julie has to sell off all of her small taro crop. Her son, Roger, who works as a hotel security guard in Madang, helped her pay for the dental procedure.

To date, YWAM Ships Kona volunteers serving aboard the m/v PACIFIC LINK have extracted 1,218 teeth and supplied 268 restorations with local healthcare workers in PNG. Many more like Julie await. We hope to deploy the m/v PACIFIC LINK to East Sepik Province this fall to alleviate difficulty eating and pain for those suffering from dental issues like Julia.


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