Story by Tech. Sgt. Shawn Nickel, Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa
Amb. Larry André Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Djibouti, visited the construction site of the future Ali Oune Women’s Medical Clinic, Dec. 3, 2018.
The clinic, slated for completion in January 2019, is intended to enhance the Ministry of Health for Djibouti’s ability to provide basic medical, birth and after care to the Ali Oune village and its more than 1,000 residents and rural neighbors.
“For the population to have access to essential health care is very important,” André said.
Projects like the clinic align with the embassy’s integrated country strategy by supporting the Djiboutian government to deliver key healthcare services.
“What the Navy construction battalion is doing here is to a very high standard, and in addition to improving care, it will help increase the respect and high standing of the military’s presence here,” added Andre’, who has been a diplomat for nearly 30 years.
Djibouti has one of the highest maternal death rates among countries in Africa, according to a study by UNICEF. The main causes of death among children under five are neonatal ones including infections, prematurity, asphyxia, acute respiratory infections, diarrhea, malaria and malnutrition.
Projects like the women’s medical clinic will not only help reduce the mortality rates of both mothers and infants, but will build relationships with the community.
André explained that the embassy regularly conducts polls on the local attitude toward the American military being here. He said from day one, in 2002, the attitude has been very positive because of the security the military brings and the benefits the population develops from its partnerships with the U.S.
U.S. Navy Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCBs) 1 and 18, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, are working daily to complete the project on time.
Thirty kilometers from the city of Djibouti, Ali Oune is only accessible by a rough dirt road, which can be washed out by rains and is notorious for flat tires due to large rocks. It’s not uncommon to see rolled or disabled vehicles along the route. This brings logistical challenges for the Seabees, along with the desert heat, which can rise to well above 100 degrees.
“They push through it and do what they need to do,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Baird, detail officer in charge, NMCBs 1 and 18. “Knowing that we are going to be affecting generations to come and giving them a better start from birth is the reward for all the work.”
Once the construction is complete, the Djiboutian government will furnish the new medical facility with medical equipment and staff.
André said 70 percent of the country’s population lives in the port city of Djibouti, but it’s monumental to also support the surrounding rural communities to make the successful stability of the country possible.
“The most important thing is to get health care to all Djiboutians living here or any part of the country,” André said.