Honduran and U.S. military doctors and dentists provide care to 1,200 patients in remote villages
By Dialogo January 12, 2014
The Honduran Health Ministry and the Armed Forces of Honduras (FAH) recently collaborated with the U.S. Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) Joint Task Force-Bravo’s Medical Element (MEDEL) to provide medical care to hundreds of people in two remote villages. The Honduran and U.S. soldiers delivered the care from Dec. 2-5, 2013, during a Medical Readiness Education and Training Exercise (MEDRETE). A team of Honduran and U.S. military physicians combined their skills to provide basic health care to more than 1,200 people in the communities of Auka and Tipimuna, two remote regions in the municipality of Gracias a Dios, officials said.
Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-B) is based at the Soto Cano military base in Honduras. JTF-B transported medical supplies, equipment, military physicians and dentists and support personnel to the villages.
Military doctors and dentists treat hundreds of patients
Hundreds of Hondurans of all ages gathered around a shabby, wooden building in the department of Gracias a Dios, where military personnel set up a makeshift medical clinic. The military doctors and dentists, along with representatives from the Honduran Health Department, worked under difficult conditions, with no air conditioning, in a hot and humid climate, according to U.S. Army Lt. Col. Hu Luu, MEDEL commander for JTF-Bravo. Luu was quoted in the JTFB website.
The doctors, dentists, health department workers, and volunteers “often worked all day without stopping to rest or eat,” Luu said, according to the website. Military physicians provided routine check-ups and treated patients with diarrhea, high blood pressure, respiratory conditions, skin infections, nutrition disorders, and chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. Military dentists provided cleanings and treated infections. Military doctors and dentists also provided classes on hygiene, nutrition, basic gynecology.
There are virtually no roads in the region. Some patients walked more than 10 kilometers for medical and dental care.
Patients expressed their gratitude to the doctors, dentists, and volunteers, Luu said. “People are grateful that we care enough to come, listen, and provide consultations,” Luu told the website.
Medical brigades: a collaborative effort
Medical brigades are “invaluable” because they provide the opportunity for military doctors and dentists from partner nations, such as Honduras, to work together, said U.S. Army Capt. Vicki English, a MEDEL member. English is a veteran of several medical brigades, according to a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Honduras.
“We were part of an exercise to validate JTF-B’s relief efforts; we all worked together,” English said, according to the statement. “Many of these people usually do not have health care within reach. For many of them, it is the first time they have been seen by medical staff.”
A great need for medical services
The military doctors and dentists provided services which are greatly needed in Honduras.
Honduras has an average of 8.7 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants, which places it in last place among Central American countries, according to a report prepared in 2011 by the National Commission for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CONADEH).
Most of these doctors are concentrated in urban areas, according to the report. There are no doctors in at least 74 of the 298 Honduran municipalities, where more than 500,000 people live. .
“There is so much need for medical care in these regions that often the only way that people can access health care is by swimming across rivers or walking through swamps,” said Dr. Yuki Pravia Navas, a Honduran general practioner.
SOUTHCOM carries out joint medical readiness training exercises (MEDRETEs) in Central America every year. The aim is to strengthen civilian-military cooperation between the seven Central American countries through humanitarian assistance operations. These exercises also test the capabilities of JTF-Bravo to quickly provide humanitarian assistance during disasters, such as earthquakes or hurricanes.
Since October 2012, Honduran military doctors and dentists and physicians from JTF-Bravo have conducted five MEDRETES in the country, providing medical and dental treatment to more than 5,300 people in La Cuesta de la Virgen, El Aguacate, Barra Patuca, Usibila, El Rodeo, Raya, El Ciruelo, and Las Liconas. .
The medical assistance that the Joint Task Force-Bravo provides in collaboration partner nation military and civilian authorities is part of an effort to improve ties with the people of the region, said Iñigo Guevara, a security analyst with the Collective for the Analysis of Security with Democracy (CASEDE) based in Mexico City.
“Having these kinds of mechanisms like medical brigades can often mean the difference between life and death for many people” Guevara said.
The collaboration between JTF-B and the Health Ministry of Honduras and Honduran military doctors and dentists is important because the effort directly benefits civilians, most of whom are in rural areas where medical care is scarce, Guevara said.
MEDRETES are part of the ongoing cooperation between Honduras and the U.S. on security issues, which range from fighting organized crime to providing medical care for people in need, Guevara said.
“Honduras and the United States maintain a deep relationship of cooperation in intelligence, defense, security, and humanitarian aid,” Guevara said.
Interesting article. It's good to find that that the armed forces provide this type of humanitarian relief instead of spending millions of dollars in absurd wars.