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Deputy Commandant Information

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CJTF-HOA medical team treats Djiboutians

By Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald | | February 1, 2003

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Navy Capt. Kenneth E. Leonard, officer-in-charge and general surgeon, and his team visited the county health clinic Feb. 1 to provide medical care and donate supplies to the village here.

The medical team is assigned to Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, whose mission is to disrupt and defeat terrorism in the Horn of Africa region.

The team arrived at the village at the crack of dawn with several trucks full of medical equipment and anxious to get to work.  Accompanying the 10-man Navy team, were soldiers from the CJTF - HOA civil affairs section and airmen from the 87th Expeditionary Security Force Squadron, who provided security to the group.

For the people here, medical care is limited. The two doctors living in the village only see patients once a month. If a person is severely injured or becomes deathly ill, the nearest hospital is about 15 miles away, and the journey must usually be made by foot or by camel.

"When the doctors see patients, they can see about twenty or twenty-five at a time," said the clinic's head of nurses, Ahmed Ali Hadi. "Mostly, we see people who come in with diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, respiratory infections, and we have a lot of cases of anemia."

Hadi, a 13-year medical veteran, said that the doctors at the clinic do not have the capabilities to perform major surgery. Patients have to travel to the hospital for anything more than a routine operation.

"If someone comes in with a skin disease or broken bone, we can usually handle that kind of stuff," he said.

Because the doctors do not see patients on a regular basis, Hadi and his fellow nurses handle the town's daily medical care.

The fact that the village's medical care was provided by nurses vice doctors amazed Leonard, who is stationed at Naval Hospital Great Lakes, Ill.

He said, "Originally, we were planning to see only fifty people because this was the first visit of this nature we've done so far."

"We actually ended up seeing about fifty-seven people. Some of those who came in didn't really need our services. They were just curious about 'the Americans.,'" said Leonard. "There were a lot of sick people though, many with colds and minor aches and pains and even a one that was diagnosed with cancer."

Overall, Leonard said the visit was a success, but there were obstacles the team had to work around.

He said, "You'd probably think the language barrier would have been the biggest challenge, but the translators did a pretty good job with that. After we recognized a problem, trying to find the drug to treat the patient was difficult because, if the clinic's pharmacy didn't have what we needed, we had to try to substitute."

Before heading back to camp, the team left behind much-needed supplies, such as gloves, medicine and bandages, for Hadi and his crew.

"This gave us the chance to use our medical skills," explained Leonard. "Plus, we were helping to foster good relations between Djibouti and America."
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