By U.S. Navy Surgeon General Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson Jr.
I recently returned from Djibouti where I had the great honor to meet with the country’s President and Prime Minister, JTF-HOA and Camp Lemonnier leadership, as well as speak to our first-rate Navy Medicine personnel and our Djiboutian military medical partners.
I’d like to share some thoughts on the strategic importance of Djibouti and the work we do with them in a host of areas. I often tell audiences at home and abroad that medicine is a language all nations understand. It’s one of the best ways to help people who are in need. Medicine builds bridges, builds trust and cooperation, and working together, our partnership in Djibouti will help improve our two countries for our mutual benefit.
The medical, surgical, and dental care that we are able to provide our personnel on Camp Lemonnier is vital to the sustainability of our missions around this part of the world. Camp Lemonnier is also a military receiving facility and the EVAC facility for the Horn of Africa. Djibouti’s host-nation support enables us to provide routine and immediate care, preventive health care, and 24/7 emergency and mass casualty support.
Djibouti is the ideal host nation for this unique partnership. Their strong and independent relationship with the West and with the United States is crucial to fostering a Djibouti and Horn of Africa that is healthier, more stable, secure, and developed.
We are strengthening our bilateral relationship on a number of levels, by improving our interoperability and cooperation, by sharing our thoughts on how to improve public health through our regional cooperation programs, by providing training and equipment in support of humanitarian missions, and simply by becoming closer allies and friends.
Although headquartered in Cairo, our medical research unit known as U.S. Navy Medical Research Unit-3 (or NAMRU-3) often visits Djibouti and a host of other countries throughout Africa and the Middle East. The research they provide in emerging infectious disease surveillance, prevention, and response has been instrumental in educating and empowering the Horn of Africa to be more prepared if and when an epidemic occurs, or if a natural disaster’s 2nd and 3rd order effects impact public health and safety.
NAMRU-3 has become the largest overseas military medical research facility in the world and plays a key U.S. foreign policy role in terms of medical diplomacy. In the history of the world, infectious diseases have put more people down than spears, guns or bombs. This is why it is vital we maintain forward-deployed units like NAMRU-3 where there is a persistent focus on force health protection, research and development and health diplomacy.
NAMRU-3 has been the vanguard for establishing credible relationships with Djiboutian medical authorities and with a host of other African nations. This has become the foundation for the mutual trust and cooperation we now enjoy today. The work they do will go a long way in reducing the high number of people who die every year from preventable and curable diseases throughout the continent.
I hope that in the coming years our military medical partnerships with Djibouti and other African countries will continue to grow.