Greetings, We recently supported an interesting, impactful, and innovative event in southern Somalia: a continuing education medical training conference in Kismayo. The event addressed widespread local health needs created by years of systemic neglect at the hands of the al-Shabaab terrorist group and worsening drought and food insecurity. Over the course of 6 years, when extremists controlled the region, the health and sanitation infrastructure deteriorated, many health providers fled, continuing education ceased, and health outcomes suffered. Now, as the national and regional governments seek to reverse this trend, consolidate security gains in the area, and counter al-Shabaab’s remaining influence, environmental factors are putting even more strain on the system.A US Team working with the Somali National Army (SNA) identified health as a critical need. Along with their SNA counterparts, they planned and resourced a conference to improve the skills and knowledge of local doctors and nurses. The SNA planned the event and provided security, the US military provided instructors and advice, the United Nations contributed an expert, and Spirit of America funded transportation for participants, catering, and a space for the event. The event was incredibly successful and brought much needed knowledge and updated techniques to Kismayo for the first time in years. US and UN doctors provided lectures and instruction on key local health issues like maternal health, cholera, gastro-intestinal issues, and water sanitation, and mental health concerns to include rape counseling, stress management in caretakers, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). By addressing local health needs identified by the Jubaland Ministry of Health and ensuring that local forces and leaders ran the event, the US team not only helped to improve local health but also helped counter the influence of al-Shabaab in the area. The positive effect of this event and the goodwill engendered with the population is critical as the government seeks to return stability, services, and prosperity to the region. Publicizing the conference and communicating effectively with the local people demonstrates that the government is responsive and working in the best interest of the people. Your support makes Spirit of America initiatives like this one possible, allowing us to quickly fill gaps and facilitate events that bring together US teams, host nation partners, and the international community to address issues that are important on both local and strategic levels. All the Best, CVJ
Chris is a US Army veteran having served as an Armor officer with a deployment to Baghdad in 2008-09 and then as a Special Operations Civil Affairs Officer with multiple deployments to Nepal in 2011-12.