Personnel from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), the U.S. Department of State, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), presented the Djibouti Ministry of Health with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine (also referred to as an "RNA extraction machine") during a ceremony in Djibouti City, Djibouti, Aug. 17, 2020.
Officials from the Ministry of Health included Dr. Saleh Banoita Tourab, secretary general; Dr. Ahmed Houssein Miguil, director general of central purchasing of materials and essential medicines; Neima Moussa Ali, health inspector and coordinator of COVID aid; Noura Abdi, director of studies, planning and international cooperation; and Fatouma Ali Abdallah, director of women’s and children’s health.
Responding to a formal request to the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti by the Djiboutian government, CJTF-HOA purchased the PCR machine using Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster, and Civic Aid Appropriation (OHDACA) funds approved by AFRICOM. OHDACA funds primarily are utilized to build partner nation capacity to provide essential humanitarian services. CJTF-HOA’s Contingency Contracting Office (CCO) sourced the PCR machine and additional items purchased with OHDACA funds. Delivery of the items was coordinated by the U.S. Army’s 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion. The PCR machine represents the single most valuable item in a list of OHDACA-funded medical supplies purchased by CJTF-HOA for the Ministry of Health, including 95 hospital beds; ECG-vitals monitoring machines; personal protective equipment (PPE) including 25,000 pairs of latex gloves and 4,000 masks; 500 hygiene kits, hand sanitizer and dispensers and more, valued at nearly $300,000.
Dr. Saleh Banoita Tourab expressed his gratitude to the United States for the donation of the machine. “I would like to thank the United States Department of Defense, Ambassador André, General Donahoe and the U.S. forces present in Djibouti. We appreciate this donation that will strengthen the collaboration and partnership between Djibouti and the United States.” He emphasized the importance of the new diagnostic machine to the Ministry of Health, noting that it will be helpful in conducting additional viral research.
Making his remarks in French, Larry E. André, U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti, congratulated the Government of Djibouti on its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, describing it as “among the most effective of all the countries in the world.” Of the PCR machine, the ambassador said, “This machine will allow Djiboutian doctors and researchers to study and verify local strains of coronavirus and other infectious diseases. It will provide an essential technology in the Government of Djibouti’s strategy to fight the global pandemic. It will greatly expand Djibouti’s testing efforts.”
Addressing the Djiboutian officials present, U.S. Army Brigadier General Damian T. Donahoe, deputy commanding general, CJTF-HOA, said, “We are appreciative of your efforts to fight this disease. We are partners in this effort,” adding, “My compliments to you, your government and your people, and I look forward to this partnership continuing.”
The Djiboutian government specifically requested the PCR machine for use in testing COVID and other viruses. According to Col. Jim Lucas, 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion surgeon, the PCR machine amplifies ribonucleic acid (RNA) for testing. He noted that many viruses, such as COVID-19, encode their genetic information using an RNA genome. “Basically, [the PCR machine] is a diagnostic tool that provides faster, better results,” he said.