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Egypt’s mobile clinics: A beacon of hope for the underprivileged amid economic crisis

On a cold night in December 2020, I witnessed the swollen face of a patient. Volunteering at a clinic in the Minya Governorate in Northern Egypt, the patient came to me. His face was enflamed and he had broken teeth. This man traveled a long distance to reach the clinic.

  • 7 days ago
  • May 15, 2024
5 min read
Rafik Hebeish, pictured first from the right, is an Egyptian-British dentist, who founded Mobile Smile Charity, which funds two mobile clinics on buses. | Photo courtesy of Dentist Rafik Hebeish Rafik Hebeish, pictured first from the right, is an Egyptian-British dentist, who founded Mobile Smile Charity, which funds two mobile clinics on buses. | Photo courtesy of Dentist Rafik Hebeish
Dentist Rafik Hebeish established Mobile Smile Charity, funding two mobile clinics on buses.
Journalist’s NOTES
INTERVIEW SUBJECT
Egyptian-British dentist Rafik Hebeish was born in Cairo, graduated in 2000, and moved to Britain in 2003, beginning work in 2004. He opened his first clinic in London in 2008. He used to travel annually to Upper Egypt to volunteer, where he noticed an increasing need for dental care. People from distant regions were traveling to receive treatment. This inspired him to establish the Mobile Smile Charity, funding two mobile clinics on buses. One clinic operates in northern Egypt, while the other serves the south, offering free consultations and medicine to impoverished individuals who cannot afford treatment.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
In September 2023, Egypt’s external debt reached $164.5 billion, slightly less than the $164.7 billion recorded in the previous quarter. This led to a depreciation in the value of the Egyptian pound, pushing the U.S. dollar to fifty Egyptian pounds. Consequently, a cost-of-living crisis arose, particularly affecting the sick. This was evident in the escalated fees for doctors’ consultations and the high costs of imported medicine, priced in dollars. Essential medicine began disappearing from pharmacies due to the lack of foreign currency for imports, leading to a surge in black market sales and potentially dangerous, unproven versions.

EGYPT — Since 2003, when I moved to Britain, I made a point to visit Egypt every year for several weeks. My mission is to volunteer in remote villages. In these places, I witnessed a growing need for dental care among the impoverished. People often journey from distant places seeking treatment, a testament to the dire need for such services.

The worsening health situation in Egypt, exacerbated by the economic downturn in recent years, compelled me to act. Thus, in 2020, I initiated the creation of mobile clinics to deliver healthcare to those living in remote areas. This effort materialized through a charity I launched, which funds two mobile clinics housed in buses. These clinics are a beacon of hope. One roams the northern regions, and the other serves the southern parts of Egypt. The clinics provide free consultations and medicine to those who are too poor to afford care.

Read more health stories at Orato World Media.

Mobile Smile: bringing hope and joy to low-income Egyptians

In Egypt, amidst a stifling economic crisis that particularly affects the poor, millions live below the poverty line. The fluctuating value of the Egyptian pound against the dollar led to rising prices of imported food and medicines. The situation exacerbates the suffering of patients who struggle to access medical consultations and afford medications. They needed urgent action to alleviate their pain.

On a cold night in December 2020, I witnessed the swollen face of a patient. Volunteering at a clinic in the Minya Governorate in Northern Egypt, the patient came to me. His face was enflamed and he had broken teeth. This man traveled a long distance to reach the clinic. Unable to afford an examination and treatment, he trekked many miles in the cold to reach us.

When I returned to Brittain, this man remained on my mind. I thought, “Why don’t we go to the poor patients in remote places instead of making them come to us?” Among various health issues in Egypt, the effect of tooth decay remains underestimated. When witnessing a child in pain with parents unable to provide relief, it becomes more daunting.

Recognizing these challenges, I founded Mobile Smile as a charity in the UK. We provide screenings and medicine for impoverished individuals suffering from tooth decay in Egypt. The organization’s mission is to bring smiles to faces, hope to souls, and joy to families.

The concept of Mobile Smile was born from our desire to alleviate pain, especially for children. The initiative attracts young, second-generation Egyptians who visit Egypt for tourism. They volunteer and assist the underprivileged in remote areas, showing great enthusiasm for this cause.

Unity in health: bringing communities together through mobile clinics

In 2021, Egypt Without Disease, a non-governmental organization, partnered with us. Together, we initiated a humanitarian project to provide free medical care to the underserved populations of northern and southern Egypt. This collaboration launched two mobile clinics, each equipped with a dental room, an ophthalmology room, and an internal medicine room.

Two mobile clinics, housed in buses, serve northern and southern Egypt respectively. | Photo courtesy
of Dentist Rafik Hebeish

Inside the buses, you find a dental chair, x-ray equipment, sterilization devices, filling tools, and other necessary supplies. An air conditioner gives the patients comfort while we work. Our clinics transcend borders, embodying a universal right to health and happiness. In 2022, our mission attracted volunteers from England and America. They joined us in Egypt to contribute to our noble cause.

When we see a patient’s smile after recovery, whether a young child or an elderly person, it shines like the sun for an entire family. We see the darkness of poverty and despair disappear from their faces. At the end of the dark tunnel, we find hope through compassion for our fellow humans. This is the hope that Mobile Smile brings to Egypt.

Today, our commitment also reaches into the neediest areas in Africa. We spent a week in Namibia and extended into South Sudan. The work reflects our deep belief that individuals must support each other, particularly in times of distress.

Despite the absence of support from official bodies in Egypt or Britain, generous philanthropists from these countries sustain us. We also have support from donors in Canada, America, and Europe. The charity’s success in Britain inspired us to establish a branch in America soon.

Each mobile clinic represents a significant investment of 50,000 pounds, but we remain undeterred. We hope that Mobile Smile’s activity will someday extend to Gaza once security permits. We dream of bringing relief to children exhausted by war.

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