Joint Task Force Troops Donate Time, Care to Animals
By Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service
ALI SABIEH, Djibouti, June 19, 2003 The scene here June 14 was organized chaos as soldiers from Company C, 478th Civil Affairs Battalion, medically attended to nearly 600 sheep, goats and donkeys.
The unit, part of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, was conducting its first veterinary civil action program. The task force's counterterrorism mission includes making a positive difference in the lives of the people in the region as well as their environment.
A group of 13 civil affairs soldiers and one French veterinarian teamed up with local animal doctors and Alan Funk, director of the nongovernmental organization International Development and Relief Board, for the event.
"We initially met with Mr. Funk here to discuss the problem the villagers have been having with hyenas attacking their flocks," explained Army Lt. Col. Charles A. Johnson, staff veterinarian.
Although Johnson and his team are still determining a solution to the hyena problem, they decided to conduct a civil action program immediately. "Our main purpose out here was to provide treatment to the common animals. We treated for ticks, lice and roundworms. Plus, we donated some veterinary medical supplies to the local vet," he said.
For the troops, the mission was to inject the livestock with Ivermectin, which rids the animals of external and internal parasites. Most of the animals were relatively calm and easy to work with, Johnson noted.
Funk, who has lived in the Horn of Africa since 1994, noted that this veterinary program was significant to "the livelihood for the people in this area." Most of the people in the Ali Sabieh district are Somali nomadic herders, who move throughout the countries of Djibouti, Somalia and Ethiopia, depending where the coolest weather is.
"When we (IDRB) first started out here, we were planning on doing immunizations for the (human) babies and mothers," Funk stated. "The people explained to us that if we got their animals healthy, then it would be a lot easier to keep the people healthy."
His organization, which seeks help from outside sources, focuses much of its attention on immunizing cattle, camels, goats, sheep and burros against external and internal parasites. "These animals provide a great source of wealth for the people. If the animals are healthy, they will produce good milk and meat that the families can sell or eat," Funk pointed out.
Johnson said he would like to put together bigger veterinary civil action programs in the future to help the people of the Horn of Africa region. "This was a unique experience for me," he said. "I definitely want to do as many of these as we can."
(Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald is assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.)