Story by Tech. Sgt. Shawn Nickel, Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa
Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, turned over the newly constructed Ali Oune Medical Clinic to Djibouti government officials during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the clinic Jan. 31.
(Video by Senior Airman Kirsten Brandes)
The 2,900-square-foot clinic, which the Seabees spent five months constructing, 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.
“Health is important today and for the future of Djibouti,” said Alexander Hamilton, chargé d’ affaires to the U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti, in a speech at the ribbon cutting. “Thank you to the U.S. military for making this a reality.”
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 5 are neonatal ones including infections, prematurity, asphyxia, acute respiratory infections, diarrhea, malaria and malnutrition.
The Seabees, CJTF-HOA and Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, leadership, and U.S. and Djiboutian government leaders attended the ceremony. Projects like the women’s medical clinic will not only help reduce the mortality rates of both mothers and infants, but will also build relationships with the community.
“Giving birth isn’t something that is easy, and where they historically give birth here is risky,” said Seaman Mariame Cherif, a Seabee assigned to NMCB-1 and one of the only female Sailors working on the clinic who also fills the role of interpreter. “It makes me feel happy to do this for them.”
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 brought logistical challenges for the 34 Seabees who lived on site for the duration of the five months.
“Getting materials out here, along with the heat, is just one of the challenges,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Baird, detail officer in charge, NMCB-1. “These Seabees pushed though and have done what they needed to do with a great attitude and an unprecedented speed. I’m proud of the work they have done out here. 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.”