(DALLAS) — Dr. Stan Cobb, assistant professor of restorative sciences at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry, has participated in dental mission trips and relief efforts in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Central America and Asia.

But none of his previous experiences prepared him for the hunger and desperation he witnessed in February 2006 during a trip to Ethiopia in northeastern Africa. Dr. Cobb had trouble sleeping for weeks after returning from the 10-day trip organized by International Crisis Aid, a faith-based rapid relief organization.

“This is the only country in the world I have visited where people begged me for water,” said Dr. Cobb, who worked as part of a 30-member medical and dental team in a village near Heme, Ethiopia, south of the capitol of Addis Ababa. “People have begged me for money before. They have begged me for food. No one has ever begged me for water.”

More than 1.75 million Ethiopians will be struggling to survive without sufficient food, health, nutrition and care. Across Ethiopia and the other four countries of the Horn of Africa, the United Nations estimates that the drought has affected 16 million people, half of whom require emergency assistance.

Dr. Cobb performed innumerable extractions and saw several people with cancer but was frustrated by the depth of the need and the physical inability of the medical and dental team to meet it.

“Some people carried relatives 25 miles hoping to see us,” Dr. Cobb said. “Many had cancer so advanced there was nothing we could do about it. At one point, a crowd of nearly 3,000 knocked down a fence trying to reach us. It was very tough to get in our SUV at the end of each day and drive off with people still untreated.”

Dr. Cobb is committed to getting the word out about the severity of the Ethiopian crisis. He wants people to know that they can help. Thousands of Ethiopian children die annually from worms, he said. Worm treatment for a family of four costs $1.75 — half of the cost of a typical Starbucks drink.

“Many Americans suffer from ‘disaster fatigue’,” Dr. Cobb said. “We’re bombarded with images of suffering every night on the news and all day on CNN and Fox News. People feel as if there is nothing they can do — or that suffering elsewhere has little to do with them. If people could see the images, if they could hear the kids crying and smell the smells, they would feel differently. What they think does matter, and they can make a difference.”

Dentists have the opportunity to help ease the suffering. Those interested in participating in international missions may contact International Crisis Aid at (314) 846-0296 or visit their website at www.crisisaid.com.

Founded in 1905, Baylor College of Dentistry at Dallas is a component of the Texas A&M Health Science Center. HSC-BCD is a nationally recognized center for oral health sciences education, research, specialized patient care and continuing dental education.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its six components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, and the School of Rural Public Health.

— LaDawn Brock