Seabees Build Medical Facility in Djibouti
With few medical assets located in the southwest region of Djibouti, the nearest hospital for the village of Kontali is about a 30-minute drive to Dikhil. Otherwise, for women in labor or the infirm, it's often a journey made on foot.
Thanks to the Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Four, deployed from Port Hueneme, Calif., in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, a maternity ward is being built here that bridges the gap and helps strengthen Djiboutian institutional capabilities.
"In emergencies, I can take a taxi or ambulance to get to the hospital in Dikhil, but if there is a hospital across the road, I can go there," said Aeesha Hussein, a 30-year-old Kontali village woman and mother. "I can have a baby here; there is nothing better than this."
Once construction is complete, the 8-building facility will house a maternity ward, patient rooms, nursery, cooking area, bathrooms, two buildings for water storage and an incinerator to burn medical waste.
"The buildings will be self-sustaining," U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Vincent Decaro, NMCB 4 crew leader and a Randolph, N.J., native said. "They'll have running water, a food-preparation area and solar power panels."
The energy harvested by the solar panels will power all eight facilities. Additionally, the concrete buildings are engineered to withstand heavy winds and seismic activity from several active volcanoes in the region.
"We're also building relationships with the local community and we are engaging with the government, local villagers and the Djiboutian army in the area," said U.S. Navy Ensign James Kwasny, officer in charge of Detail Kontali.
Mohamed Houmed, the Kontali village chief, gave his thanks to the U.S. Navy for the ongoing construction of the maternity ward.
"Thank you for coming here," said Houmed. "Having a clinic in the region is a better thing and we think this is going to help our people in the future. This is going to help us a lot."
Previous Seabee units have worked on the project, from conducting military-to-military engagements with the Djiboutian army and civil engagements with the villagers to pouring concrete and teaching stuccoing techniques.
"They are really good at stuccoing," said Kwasny, a native of Virginia Beach, Va., about the villagers. Before NMCB 4 redeploys this summer, four of the eight buildings are scheduled to be 100-percent complete.
"To come here and help people is a great opportunity for the Seabees," said Kwasny. "That's why you see the smiles on a lot of their faces; it's because they are doing something they really enjoy."