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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

CJTF-HOA saves lives with medical civic action program

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Carrie Bernard
CJTF-HOA Public Affairs

GARISSA, Kenya – For the residents of two remote African villages where common colds and cuts can have deadly outcomes, a mobile U.S. military medical team recently brought more than just healthcare – it brought life.

Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa servicemembers conducted a Medical Civic Action Program in the villages of Shimbir and Balich in Kenya through a partnership with the Kenyan Department of Defense which provided additional medical providers and logistical support. The team also received assistance from many other local and government agencies to include the Kenyan Red Cross, USAID, the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion and U.S. Embassy Nairobi personnel.

“These two sites were recommended by the ministry of health due to their lack of medical attention,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Vicente Perez, 350th Civil Affairs Command Functional Specialty Team and MEDCAP mission commander. “In both villages, the locals saw for first time the KDOD, the Red Cross and U.S. representatives helping the communities together.”

While each organization brought its own specialty to the project, everyone involved rallied around the common goal of providing much needed medical care for more than 1,000 men, women and children.

“It’s a lot of hard, physical work preparing for and conducting a MEDCAP. People have to step out of the box and, sometimes, their comfort zones,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Dawn Fruits, 350th CACOM Functional Specialty Team first sergeant. “We had an awesome team that really worked well together. It was a team that came together and ensured the people in these remote Kenyan villages received the medical care they needed.”

At each MEDCAP village site, participants were first registered and screened to determine their specific healthcare needs. People with minor concerns, such as scrapes and aches, were directed to the Wound Care and Fast Track stations, respectively, where they were seen by physician assistants and nurses.

“For me personally, the most rewarding thing that I got from this MEDCAP was the fact that I could help people on a much larger level,” said U.S. Army Sgt. John Martie, Delta Company 1/3 senior line medic and Wound Care station lead. “The fact that I could have a huge impact on a person’s life is something I will always appreciate.”

Those patients with more serious or in-depth concerns, such as chest pains or severe coughs, were sent to the Consult station where they were seen by doctors and physician assistants.

“For hundreds of people we were able to clear up skin infections, cure bladder infections, decrease the risk of serious respiratory disease, provide for a healthier pregnancy and give some relief from chronic pain,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) David Burch, CJTF-HOA command surgeon. “There were also several individuals who quite possibly could have died or lost a limb if we had not intervened when we did, such as the 10 year-old with a serious infection around the knee joint, the gentleman with a deep, soft tissue abscess, or the pair of brothers with respiratory illness that was evolving into Pneumonia.”

Once diagnosed, patients picked up their prescriptions at the improvised pharmacy. With about 130 different types of medications valued at more than $50,000, this station required the most time to set-up and organize.

“The most logistically challenging aspect was having the MEDCAP in two locations with no permanent area to set up the pharmacy,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Lance Rodgers, 350th CACOM Functional Specialty Team medical team chief. “Everyone pitched in though and we overcame several minor setbacks.”

From the pharmacy, the patients stopped by the Preventive Medicine station where they were given information on items like nutrition and dental care, as well as multivitamins and personal de-worming medication.

“Preventive medicine plays a key role in developing a healthier population,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Pauline Lucas, CJTF-HOA public health officer. “Basic items such as multivitamins and de-worming medications prevent multiple diseases such as Scurvy, Beriberi, Ascariasis and Anemia that are prevalent in this region.”

At this final station, the residents also received mosquito nets for each member of their family, a simple yet possibly life-saving item.

“Malaria causes over a million deaths every year worldwide -- a majority of which are young children in Africa,” said Lucas. “Prevention methods such as using mosquito nets and insect repellents are the best way to minimize if not prevent exposures to insects that carry a variety of vector borne diseases such as Malaria and Yellow Fever; a majority of which are deadly.”

Once armed with education, medications and healthcare items, the local residents returned to their homes, expressing gratitude to the MEDCAP team along the way.

“One of the local people told us that people would remember the MEDCAP for years to come,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alana Conley, 350th CACOM Functional Specialty Team physician assistant. “I think this MEDCAP has given people in the region a positive outlook on the partnership between their government and the United States.”

Combined Joint Task Force-Horn Of Africa began operations at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti on May 13, 2003. The task force’s mission is to prevent conflict, promote regional stability and protect coalition interests in order to prevail against extremism. The mission is accomplished by partnering with nations on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, consequence management, civic action programs to include medical and veterinary care, school and medical clinic construction and water development projects

Photo - Kenyan Department of Defense servicemembers unload medical supplies during a Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa Medical Civic Action Program. CJTF-HOA servicemembers conducted the MEDCAP in the villages of Shimbir and Balich in Kenya through a partnership with the Kenyan Department of Defense which provided additional medical providers and logistical support. More than 1,000 people received healthcare as part of the project. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Carrie Bernard.

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