NMCB 133 Builds Medical Facility in Djibouti

By Lt. j.g. Aaron Kulp, CEC, NMCB 133 

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SW2 Andrew Heffron (far left) and UTC Dennys Colodro (far right), NMCB 133, are assisted by a local interpreter as they escort Tadjourah Health Minister Daud Abdoul during his first visit to the Kalaf Clinic jobsite near Tadjourah, Djibouti, Africa, July 11. Photos by BU1 Aaron Wilde

Few medical assets are located in the northern portion of Djibouti, Africa, and the nearest medical facility for the remote village of Kalaf is in the town of Tadjoura, a 20-minute drive away. Djiboutians from Kalaf requiring medical attention, including pregnant women, frequently make this journey on foot due to limited vehicle availability.

To help address this issue, a small team of Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133, working in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), deployed to the area to construct a maternity ward in Kalaf. In a country where the maternal mortality rate is currently more than 20 times greater than that in the United States, this civic assistance mission will have enormous impact on the village for generations to come.

The Seabees are working to complete a seven-building facility that will house a maternity ward, nursery, bathrooms, cooking area, bedrooms, two buildings for water storage, an incinerator to burn medical waste and two sewage treatment tanks. They are also installing solar panels that will provide enough energy to support the entire clinic.

The buildings are constructed with structural insulated panels, a composite building material consisting of an insulating layer sandwiched by structural board. These panels allow for quick construction, while still providing the necessary strength to withstand heavy winds and long days of continuous sun, both of which are common to the region.

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SW3 Luke Bay, NMCB 133, works on an overhead concrete slab pour to support water storage at the Kalaf Clinic jobsite near Tadjourah, Djibouti, Africa, July 3. 

Previous Seabee units working on the project have conducted demonstrations and worked with students from Centre d’Apprentissage Cardijn, a Tadjourah trade school. The school’s technical trade program serves students ranging from 14 to 18 years of age. The focus areas of the school are residential electrical, motors and controls, automotive mechanics, welding, carpentry and masonry. The school is a two-year program, and the students may elect to continue training in another field of their choice upon successful completion of their first field of study. Students have visited the Kalaf project site, where they were able to observe concrete placement, residential electrical wiring, carpentry and welding.

The Seabees at Kalaf have found an innovative way to ensure their presence does more than support CTJF-HOA’s civic assistance mission. By developing a relationship with the trade school, the Seabees have given Djiboutian students the opportunity to learn valuable skills at an active construction site.

“The Kalaf medical clinic is progressing well under the circumstance of the heat every day,” said Steelworker 2nd Class Andrew Heffron, NMCB 133, a native of Eugene, Ore. The weather in Djibouti regularly exceeds 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.

“Even though the days are long, the crew comes to work with motivation to get the job done each day,” he said.

The overall effort was summed up best by Construction Mechanic Constructionman Jacob Toth, NMCB 133, Lincoln County, N.C., who said, “All in all, it is a great job because the end result is helping people.”

The maternity clinic will be turned over to the Tadjourah Health Minister upon completion later this year.

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