By Senior Airman Rachel Waller, CJTF-HOA Public Affairs
A local villager watches NMCB 4 Seabees work on a maternity ward, Kontali, Djibouti. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Caleb Pierce
With few medical assets located in the southwest region of Djibouti, the nearest hospital for the village of Kontali is about a 30-minute drive to Dikhil. Otherwise, for women in labor or the infirm it’s often a journey made on foot.
Thanks to the Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 4, deployed from Port Hueneme, Calif., in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), a maternity ward is being built that bridges the gap and helps strengthen Djiboutian institutional capabilities.
“In emergencies, I can take a taxi or ambulance to get to the hospital in Dikhil, but if there is a hospital across the road I can go there,” said Aeesha Hussein, a 30-year-old Kontali village woman and mother. “I can have a baby here; there is nothing better than this.”
Once construction is complete, the 8-building facility will house a maternity ward, patient rooms, nursery, cooking area, bathrooms, two buildings for water storage and an incinerator to burn medical waste.
“The buildings will be self-sustaining,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Vincent Decaro, NMCB 4 crew leader.
“They’ll have running water, a food-preparation area and solar power panels.”
The energy harvested by the solar panels will power all eight facilities. Additionally, the concrete buildings are engineered to withstand heavy winds and seismic activity from several active volcanoes in the region.
“We’re also building relationships with the local community and we are engaging with the government, local villagers and the Djiboutian army in the area,” said Ens. James Kwasny, officer in charge of Detail Kontali.
Mohamed Houmed, the Kontali village chief, gave his thanks to the U.S. Navy for the ongoing construction of the maternity ward.
“Thank you for coming here,” said Houmed. “Having a clinic in the region is a better thing and we think this is going to help our people in the future. This is going to help us a lot.”
Previous Seabee units have worked on the project, from conducting military-to-military engagements with the Djiboutian army and civil engagements with the villagers to pouring concrete and teaching stuccoing techniques.
“They are really good at stuccoing,” said Kwasny, about the villagers. Before NMCB 4 redeploys this summer, four of the eight buildings are scheduled to be 100-percent complete.
“To come here and help people is a great opportunity for the Seabees,” he said. “That’s why you see the smiles on a lot of their faces; it’s because they are doing something they really enjoy.”