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Thousands of Ghanaians benefit from Shared Accord humanitarian assistance

US Marine Corps News

6/25/2008 By Master Sgt. Donald E. Preston, Marine Forces Europe

DABOYA CAMP TRAINING AREA, Ghana — In a focused effort soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines came together to conduct numerous humanitarian assistance projects here in concert with exercise Shared Accord held June 10-26.

Impacting thousands of Ghanaians and their animals the teams arrived here from locations throughout the United States to small hut-laden villages providing various medical, dental, optical and veterinary types of care.

“The Shared Accord exercise has always had the humanitarian assistance aspect to it,” said Lt. Col. Jeffery R. Eberwein, Shared Accord exercise action officer, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe. “However, this is the first year the task force commander has made the decision to have the medical and veterinary aspects as the focus of effort.”

Armed with medicines and eye wear, the doctors, dentists and optometrists put their skills to work assisting more than 5,000 Ghanaian men, women and children.

“We brought $40,000 to $50,000 worth of medicines to support the various dental, general medical and optical problems we expected to encounter. Any thing that is left over once we are done will be provided to a local clinic,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Ed Sanchez, project officer in charge, Air Force Reserve Command, International Health Benefits Mission. “Additionally, the Lions Club has provided us 900-1000 sets of eye glasses of different prescriptions and sizes.”

The U.S. medical, dental and optical staff worked side-by-side with their Ghanaian counterparts and provided various training as the patients were being seen.

“Any place we can marry up host nation medical folks we are doing that to maximize the patients that are seen and to ensure learning takes place,” Sanchez said.

Col. Scott E. Sayre, a dentist, assigned to 445th Aerospace Medical Squadron, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio worked with Ghanaian nurse, Staff Sgt. Peter Mensah during various exams and treatments.

“Peter is an ear, nose throat nurse and while he is here, he is studying with me on aspects like local anesthesia and oral anatomy,” Sayre said. “Projects like this are very rewarding. I have been involved in similar projects in places like Guatemala and Senegal, but these are some of the most needy people I have seen.”

The type of care in most cases is limited. However, the patients could be seen for more than one ailment if a healthcare provider felt it was necessary, said Sanchez. “In general, because there are so many people to be seen we try to provide only one of the services. But by providing everyone things like de-worming medicine it will have a positive effect on their overall quality of life.”

The de-worming aspect carried over to the veterinary care provided in many of the same villages the health care was provided.

“Our goal is to assist 16,000 animals in de-worming. By removing the parasitic load in the animals it will not be reintroduced for several months,” said Army Maj. James Riche, veterinarian, 404th Civil Affairs Unit based in Fort Dix, N.J. “In most cases this will result in a 10 percent increase in body weight for the livestock which in turn will benefit the individual families.”

On average, the medical team managed to see almost 1,000 people a day with the veterinary team corralling close to 2,500 animals on at least one occasion. This combination of efforts will impact the quality of life for Ghanaians in the area.

“We conducted operations for eight days and were very effective in what we did,” said Riche. “A healthier animal means healthier people and it reduces the potential for animal to human transfer. Ghana has had strong relations with the United States and we want to continue building upon this relationship with projects like this. It is important and we enjoy doing it.”

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