U.S. servicemembers and local volunteers conduct a veterinarian civil action program outreach in Boren Jeden, Ethiopia, May 5, 2008. This outreach is part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa vision of helping to develop partner nations and forging lasting relationships in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by MSgt Steve Cline)
DIRE DAWA, Ethiopia (May 30, 2008) — U.S. servicemembers assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, conducted Veterinary Civil Action Projects in several of the remote villages surrounding the city of Dire Dawa.
The project was an opportunity for U.S. military personnel form the Army’s 324th Civil Affairs Battalion and Naval Construction Battalion 74 Sea Bees to work to inoculate Ethiopian livestock for several diseases, and to treat for internal and external parasites. The events, which took place May 1-May 17, saw more than 17,000 animals. The animals included sheep, goats, camels, donkeys and cattle. Lt. Col. Bethany Lenderman, a civil affairs officer with the 324th Civil Affairs Battalion, says in an area that is so dependent on livestock, the health of the animals is not the only concern.
“The People in these areas use these animals for food,” said Lenderman. “Vaccinating the animals and eliminating parasites ensures the food the people eat is healthier, and they will get a better price on the market for the meat. So this helps the Ethiopian people economically as well.”
The turnout for the events was surprising for Lenderman. No media advertising was used, yet people came by foot from several miles away to visit the site.
“In the village of Jeldessa alone we’ve seen more than double the number of animals we projected,” said Lenderman. “That’s just a testament to how close-knit these villages are. The word-of-mouth advertising has far exceeded our expectations.”
A project of this magnitude could not have been accomplished by the U.S. alone. Six Ethiopian veterinarians volunteered their time to learn Western veterinary techniques and to apply that learning to assist with the inoculation effort.
The learning was not all on the Ethiopian side. Spc. Christopher McAndrews, a veterinary technician with the 422nd Medical Detachment, Veterinary Services, says he learned about treating livestock from the Ethiopian vets.
“My experience has been with smaller animals,” said McAndrews, “It’s amazing to watch the vets get in the pin with a 1,000 pound animal and stick it with a needle. They’ve taught me a lot about animal husbandry and dealing with livestock.”
The long-term reward of the VETCAP remains to be seen. The 324th CAB plans to revisit the VETCAP sites to check the progress of the animals they have treated. The benefits of interacting with the local population and training Ethiopian veterinarians how to better care for animals are immediate for those who participated in the events.
“I can’t express strongly enough how worthwhile and rewarding this VETCAP has been,” Lenderman said. “It’s been overwhelming to me. I wish everyone could experience helping the Ethiopian people achieve a better standard of living.”