Raleigh medical, dental clinic offers care to Afghan refugees awaiting official status

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Medical care. Dental Care. Both are vital to everyone’s health, but are sometimes overlooked due to life situations.

It’s especially true with the hundreds of Afghan refugees that have come into the Triangle area. 

A special health clinic was held on Saturday to help people who fled Afghanistan, but who are still waiting for their official government-issued refugee status.

“Once they become an official refugee, they are eligible for Medicaid,” Cory Whittaker said, the Area Director for the Christian Medical and Dental Associations in the Triangle. “But until that time, they don’t have healthcare available to them, or dental care.”

That means at least 150 Afghan refugees wouldn’t typically have a place to go to get necessary medicine, have a physical exam, or even check for cavities. 

“We’re hoping to catch something that’s a chronic issue, like high blood pressure,” Whittaker said about why the event was taking place on Saturday. “It’s our way of welcoming them into the community.”

On Saturday, families piled into the basement of Forest Hills Baptist Church in Raleigh to make sure after months of traveling and escaping Taliban rule, they are healthy.

“We left Afghanistan and then were taken to Qatar, and then to Italy, (and then) from Italy to New Mexico… we stayed there for 15 plus days, and from there we were brought here,” refugee Khadija Wazeen said.

Wazeen and her husband left their homeland in August. She hasn’t got a chance to check on her physical health since then.

“They recommended an X-ray for my teeth,” she said.

Wazeen knows the importance of keeping up with doctors’ appointments and getting ahead of any potential health problems.

“I was a physician and we had free medical plans for the needy people or for people who were displaced,” she said.

She also told CBS 17 that she is very grateful to be on this end of things, and even tried to help staff at the clinic, by translating for other refugees. 

“It’s a great thing to help and be helped,” Wazeen said.

Campbell University, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill medical and dental students helped at the clinic.

“There are plenty of opportunities to serve underserved communities,” Whittaker said.

The clinic was a by-product of a community partnership with the Christian Medical and Dental Association of the Triangle and Lutheran Services.

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