Joint U.S. Military Team Provides Medical and Dental Aid to Remote Villages of Djibouti
U.S. Navy and Marine Corps medical and dental teams joined Army counterparts to provide basic medical and dental treatment to hundreds of Djiboutian citizens. This was part of a series of Medical Civil Action Projects from March 29 through April 2 in the remote villages of Goubetto, Chabelley and Dammerjog.
In addition to treating thousands of patients, the medical teams conducted preventive health presentations and delivered basic hygiene items to one of the poorest regions in the world. With the help of military and civilian interpreters who spoke a local Somali dialect and French, the medical teams advised their patients about the importance of proper hygiene and the relationship between cleanliness and good health.
"Their aim was to work with local and foreign doctors and train local nurses as part of an ongoing effort to establish good working relationships and build up the healthcare capacity in the area," said Commander Alan Philippi, public health physician. "We paid particular attention to nurses," said Philippi, "because they are the first to see and have the most interaction with patients."
The majority of patients in each of these three locations were women and children who were treated for respiratory ailments, coughs, colds, skin diseases, and malnutrition. Those who required advanced care were referred to the local hospital. Although the doctors, medics and corpsmen did not encounter many serious ailments, they did see conditions that, if left untreated, could become life threatening.
In one case, "Dr. Nelson pulled a dead fly out of an infant's ear that had been in there for some time causing a severe ear infection," said independent duty corpsman Sam Y. Kim. "In the United States, something like this would have been taken care of immediately and the baby would never have had to suffer for so long. But unfortunately, medical care is not readily available here."
Two dentists on the team treated approximately 15 patients and extracted several teeth. "At first, people were very reluctant to see the dentist. Around here, dentist pull teeth without anesthesia and the experience is very traumatic for the patients," said Kim. "But once word got out that our dentists were using anesthesia and that it wasn't painful, we saw more patients come in for extractions."
According to Philippi, Djibouti health officials have reported seeing improvements in the overall health of the population, which he attributes partly to U.S. efforts in the area. "The Civil Military Operations projects are making a positive impact in the area and are fostering positive relationships with the people of Djibouti," said Philippi.
The joint missions project also provided valuable opportunities for members of the different branches of the military to work together and learn from each other. "We learned how local doctors treat infectious diseases and the different cases of infections they see at different times of the year," said Kim. "This helps us for planning purposes. In future medical aid missions, we'll know what medications to bring and how to treat the local diseases," he said. "We'll be better prepared and less people will suffer."