DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti – Members of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and Camp Lemonnier helped mitigate the likelihood of disease transmission at a local youth center here, Aug 22.
Led by U.S. Army Maj. Donald Dais, 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion Functional Specialty Team Environmental Health officer in charge, the unit conducted food-handler training, environmental health assessments, as well as tested multiple water sources for chlorine and bacteria levels at Caritas Djibouti – a mission serving humanitarian aid and education mostly to Djiboutian children living on the streets.
“The [Camp Lemonnier] chaplains had asked me to go to Caritas with them to do an assessment the last time they went,” said Dais.
There, he identified some improvements that could be made to areas such as food-handling methods and sanitation, and created and taught a tailored class to educate and inform the Caritas volunteers in an effort to intercept the onset and proliferation of disease.
He and his team also conducted water purity testing and evaluated the sleeping conditions as part of the health appraisal.
“We don’t have a specialist here that can do what [the U.S military] can do to check our water,” said Alain Djeudi, a Caritas kitchen and food service volunteer. “We must be sure that there are no diseases here; we must keep everybody healthy.”
Djeudi said that many of the children that come to Caritas Djibouti are ill, refugees from areas like Somalia and Ethiopia. Often times, they arrive at the mission with both wounds and illness. This creates a scenario in which Caritas attempts to not only treat the acute affliction, but also halt the spread of infectious diseases from spreading to other children and eventually progressing into the local community.
Therefore, Dais’s disease prevention program has the potential to positively affect the entire region, helping shape the environment while maintaining freedom of movement in the joint operating area of East Africa.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Samantha Ward, assigned to the Camp Lemonnier Emergency Medical Facility, assisted Dias during the assessment.
“It’s important that we realize that what we as U.S. citizens consider the correct way isn’t always the best way for the people of other regions in the world,” said Ward. “What we’re here to do is see what can be done to assist them in implementing what works best in this environment.”
Dias complemented Ward’s sentiments, noting the dual role they played in the Caritas visit.
“We are here to conduct ourselves as not only professionals in the field of public health and disease prevention, but we are also serving as ambassadors,” he said. “In that role, we are committed to doing the very best for our regional partners, while remaining mindful of the host-nation culture.”