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ÉTOY, Switzerland: Sunstar is utilising the expertise that it gained in the aftermath of natural disasters in order to assist those affected by the worsening humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. The Japanese-owned international oral healthcare company’s Bousai response was developed in response to earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis, and it recognises that the promotion of oral hygiene in crisis-stricken areas helps to prevent pneumonia and poor health, particularly among older people.
As part of its initial response to the humanitarian crisis, Sunstar has donated over 55,000 oral care products to the Polish Red Cross and has pledged to equal donations given by its employees across Europe to aid organisations helping those affected in Ukraine. In the coming weeks, a further 25,000 toothbrushes and toothpastes will be delivered, bringing the total number of donated products to more than 80,000, including nearly 30,000 children’s toothbrushes.
Since establishing its original Bousai campaign of oral care after the Tohoku earthquake in Japan in 2011, Sunstar has worked to provide aid to those affected by a number of humanitarian crises. The term can be translated into English as “disaster readiness” or “disaster management to reduce the damage caused”, and Sunstar’s Bousai message is that oral care is essential to systemic health for those who are affected by natural or man-made disasters. Crucially, it has been proved that those fleeing disaster or living in temporary refugee centres—the elderly in particular—are more prone to pneumonia and poor health when oral hygiene is neglected.
Oral care improves not only the health of the oral cavity but also general health, and the mouth is also the entrance to the lungs. A shortage of water and oral care products makes it difficult for evacuees and refugees to maintain good oral care and, additionally, the fatigue that many experience increases the proliferation of bacteria in the mouth, and this can adversely affect the rest of the body. For example, over 200 deaths were attributed to pneumonia as an indirect result of the Hanshin earthquake in Japan in 1995.
The Bousai campaign was originally developed with the expertise of Dr Ryohei Adachi, chief of dental surgery at Tokiwa Hospital in Miki in Japan and former professor in the Department of Oral Health at Kobe Tokiwa Junior College. Whereas a toothbrush or mouthwash is always best for maintaining oral health, if this is not available during crises, the campaign advises the following preventative care:
After eating, gargle thoroughly with about two tablespoons of water or tea;
Clean teeth by wiping them with a cloth, tissue or wet wipe wrapped around a finger;
Stimulate saliva production by massaging or warming the base of the jaw below the ear, or by chewing gum, if available.
According to Dr Adachi, Japan has experience in maintaining health in the aftermath of natural disasters owing to the country’s frequent earthquakes and typhoons. “We recognised the problem that many people die of pneumonia due to poor oral hygiene during prolonged evacuation. Therefore, we believe that oral care in disasters is life-saving care, and we are providing information on how to take care of the mouth during emergencies,” he said.
Commenting on the campaign, Julia Linz, senior director of human resources for Sunstar’s European operations, said: “Like millions of others worldwide, we want to support humanitarian help in Ukraine and also offer our oral hygiene knowledge to help prevent further indirect casualties among those living in refugee centres or in war-torn situations where water has become scarce.”
For further information on the work being done as part of Sunstar’s Bousai campaign, visit: jp.sunstar.com/bousai/en.