Uganda, U.S. Health Campaign Aids Villagers
Ugandan and U.S. military healthcare experts distributed vitamins and deworming tablets to improve the health condition of villagers in Kakute, Uganda, April 23, 2013, as part of a comprehensive program called One Health.
Intestinal worms, transmitted through food or water, are pervasive throughout East Africa and contribute to a range of health problems, such as malnutrition or anemia. Working together, members from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa's Surgeon Cell, 411th Civil Affairs Battalion and the Uganda People's Defense Force dispensed hundreds of tablets - an effective, low-cost solution.
"The deworming tablets are taken orally, inexpensive, and treat all common intestinal worms," said U.S. Army Maj. Daisy Wilson, a public-health nurse with the 411th CA BN. "And they're safe, even when given to uninfected individuals."
Though rare, parasitic infestation can be life-threatening. Kakute is in Uganda's Luwero District, where nine percent of children below the age of five have intestinal worms, according to a 2008 study from the Makerere University Medical School African Health Services Department in Kampala, the capital of Uganda.
"Deworming is very important, because parasites are common in children here," said Wilson. "We gave the villagers the tablets as a preventative measure. Villagers use open water sources (untreated), for drinking, cooking and cleaning, which put them at a high risk for intestinal worms."
Though the Ugandan government provides its residents deworming tablets every six months at no cost, the U.S. Agency for International Development funded the supply that One Health members dispensed for villagers' convenience and to encourage them to meet with the CJTF-HOA and UPDF healthcare experts.
"Villagers can pick up tablets at clinics, but it's not always easy for them to get there," said Wilson. "We brought the tablets to make it convenient for them."
By and large, the distribution of multivitamins and tablets was one of many One Health projects, a 2-week program that recognizes the health of humans, animals and ecosystems, like their nations, are interconnected. Overall, One Health is a whole-of-government program coordinated by the Ugandan government, UPDF, USAID, U.S. State Department, U.S. Embassy in Uganda, and CJTF-HOA.
"We're here as a team from UDPF in collaboration with the U.S. military medical corps to address issues that are affecting our communities," said UPDF Maj. (Dr.) Godwin B. Bagyenzi, director of medical research for the UPDF, who also helped dispense the tablets. "This partnership of One Health is a good concept we need to advance."
In addition to dispensing the tablets, One Health members taught villagers how to improve water, food and personal hygiene sanitation procedures - fulfilling One Health's goal to prevent the spread of disease.
"Words can't explain how I feel," said Wilson, when asked how she felt about One Health's importance. "We're really looking forward to continuing the One Health mission, because it's really needed here."