U.S. Partners with Ethiopian Ministry of Health on Global Health Initiative

An Ethiopian student nurse explains to a patient how to properly use an inhaler during a Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) in Meeto, Ethiopia, May 20, while U.S. Army Major Brian Wehrer, 402nd Combined Arms Battalion functional specialty team assistant physician, watches. (U.S. Air Force photo / Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Rissmiller)

By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jevon Smith
J-9 Combat Camera, CJTF-HOA

A Functional Specialty Team (FST) of healthcare providers and 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion (402 CA BN) soldiers from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) provided medical care to more than 400 Ethiopians during a Medical Civil Action Program (MEDCAP) in the sub-Sahara area of Dire Dawa May 9 to 27.

The team partnered with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health as part of the Global Health Initiative, a program designed to provide and improve healthcare access to underprivileged areas around the world. As part of the partnership, local Ethiopian nursing students joined CJTF-HOA personnel to provide medical care in many of the local villages visited during the MEDCAP.

In addition to language translation, the nursing students provided medical consultations, preventive medicine advice and wrote prescriptions.

“Working with the nursing students as well as the healthcare extension workers has been the most important component to achieving the message that the Ethiopian Ministry of Health wants to increase their citizens’ healthcare capacity,” said U.S.Army Captain Vincent Fry, 402 CA BN, the FST’s technical leader.

In addition to the medical care provided during the MEDCAP, the FST visited villages that needed assistance with other infrastructure aspects in their community. The village of Kelebed, located two hours outside of the city limits of Dire Dawa, was able to complete the repair of a damaged well following minor surveying assistance from the FST. After borrowing a tire iron the FST had brought with them, the men of Kelebed fixed the well and were able to provide another source of water to the small town, kilometers away from other settled areas.

U.S. Army Captain Vincent Fry, 402nd Combined Arms Battalion functional specialty team senior lead physician, examines a small boy during a Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) in Meeto, Ethiopia May 20. (U.S. Air Force photo / Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Rissmiller)

“They had the parts, they just needed the tools,” said U.S. Army Specialist James Sanchez, 402 CA BN. “It was extremely rewarding, just to see the faces of the people we have helped. It makes me understand the importance of us being here.”

U.S. Army Major Brian Wehrer, 402 CA BN and the FST’s senior healthcare provider for the FST, said that he has conducted more than 80 MEDCAPs in his career. He identified these missions in Dire Dawa as exemplary successes.

“Partnership with the local nurses made a huge impact,” Wehrer said.  “We were able to help a lot of people, and seeing help come from their ministry of health just solidified the fact that we are here to work together.”

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