Item 1221 - Opening Address by President Nelson Mandela at the 41st World Congress of the International Association of Dental Students and Young Dentists World -Wide

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ZA COM MR-S-1221


Opening Address by President Nelson Mandela at the 41st World Congress of the International Association of Dental Students and Young Dentists World -Wide


  • 1994-08-01 - 1994-08-31 (Aug-94)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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41st World Congress of the International Association of Dental Students and Young Dentists World -Wide

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  • English

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It is an honour for me to be part of this ceremony of the International Association of Dental Students and Young Dentists World-wide. It is also an honour for our country and people that this, your 41st World Congress is being held in South Africa: the first such Congress on the African continent and the Southern Hemisphere.
Your presence here is an expression of confidence in the new democracy that we have just achieved, and of trust in our people to contribute in what humble way we can to the cause of building healthy societies in all parts of the world. At last, South Africa has become a full part of the world community of free nations. And we thank you and all those who made it their business to be interested in, and contribute to, the struggle for our nation's emancipation.
The future of South Africa will be determined by its youth. The future of your profession will be determined by you - the students and young dentists of today, filled as you are with vitality and enthusiasm.
The new democratic South Africa is also young. Like you, we are also standing at the threshold of a new future. We are also filled with vitality and enthusiasm. As it is your goal to succeed, it is our objective to make a success of the future of our country. You are going to use many yardsticks to determine your success. Our success will be measured by only one yardstick: that is, to what extent we are improving the quality of life of all South Africans. And there is no greater measure for this than the quality of ordinary people's health.
In doing this, we will have to surmount the many problems arising from the apartheid past. These include the large disparity in health services for various sections of our population; a fragmented health system that was based on race; and the fact that many people, especially in rural areas, were not catered for at all.
Our Reconstruction and Development Programme outlines the comprehensive manner in which all these matters need to be addressed. The success of the RDP in its totality and that of the health programme in particular are closely intertwined.

The health status of our society will not improve to any significant extent unless we succeed in the implementation of the RDP. If we don not succeed in creating jobs and building houses, providing clean water and better sanitation, creating a clean environment and ensuring road safety, our health programme will definitely fail.
The inverse is also true. We cannot successfully implement the RDP without building a society of healthy people. Healthy children do better at school. Healthy adults are more productive. We could go on and on, including citing the issue of the AIDS threat, which has become the most dangerous and silent health threat to the future of our nation and peoples elsewhere.
What this emphasises, though, is that we have to move with deliberate speed to implement the plans we have set out to deliver health to the people. The basic principles guiding us in this regard is that health care services must be accessible, affordable, efficient and equitable. Above all, they must be implemented with the active involvement of the health fraternity and the communities they are supposed to serve.
It is for this reason that primary health care constitutes the central pillar of our health policy. This entails among other things the building of functional clinics especially in rural and informal settlements, and the participation of communities in the planning, provision, control and monitoring of services.
Often, as professionals, we are tempted to approach our work as providers, dealing with passive recipients. But the reality is that in each community there is a pool of knowledge and wisdom that we should tap. It is in this kind of interaction with the communities that we are able to expand our professional knowledge and involve people in health programmes and in enhancing their self-esteem.
This applies to health in general as well as oral health, the importance of which is only now being sufficiently recognised. In this regard, we should congratulate your association for sensitising communities about the integral place of oral health in the overall health system. Thanks to your efforts and those of your colleagues, this year, the World Health Organisation designated World Health Day as a day devoted to oral health.
The World Health Organisation slogan, "Oral Health for a Healthy Life" has helped to focus attention on the world-wide problem of dental caries and periodontal diseases. Although not directly life-threatening, oral diseases present problems of discomfort, pain, inconvenience and expense. In South Africa, the majority of adults suffer from these dental problems.
Hand in hand with your association, the Ministry of Health and the Government in general, should take up the challenge of intensifying the awareness campaign on oral health, extending the screening services to all schools, training more dental staff and working out draft regulations on fluoridation of our water supplies.
These are some of the challenges that your profession and the rest of society need to address. And I should emphasise that addressing these problems requires dedicated men and women who have as their main objective service to communities rather than mere self-enrichment. In this regard, service in the public sector is crucial.
For young and adventurous minds, there is also the challenge to resist the temptation to either base in lucrative areas within a given country, or to seek greener pastures in other countries. We hope that Congresses of this nature, where young professionals from many parts of the world interact, you will strengthen relations in a manner that obviates the problem of a brain drain from countries that are less advanced.
During the next eight days, you will be able to exchange views on many issues pertaining to your profession. But I hope too, that as young people, you will also be able to relax and savour the beautiful environs of the Cape Peninsula.
I wish you all the best in your deliberations and hope you enjoy your stay in Cape Town.
Thank You.

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 21/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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