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Africom's Partnership Endures During COVID-19 Pandemic

April 14, 2020 | BY Army Staff Sgt. Flor Gonzalez , DOD News

As the world fights to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States, through U.S. Africa Command, is doing its part to help African partner nations combat this new enemy.

In 2019, four African partner nations — Ghana, Senegal, Uganda and Rwanda — were provided with the training and equipment to efficiently and effectively set up, take down and operate a United Nations-standard level 2 hospital through the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership program.

Ugandan officer briefs Ugandan soldiers on the layout of a mobile treatment facility.
Treatment Facility
Uganda People’s Defense Force medical clinic officer 1st Lt. Vincent Nzayisenga gives directives to soldiers about the layout of a United Nations-standard level 2 mobile treatment facility during a vendor training event at the Uganda Rapid Deployment Capabilities Center motor pool in Jinja, Uganda, May 15, 2019.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Grady Jones
VIRIN: 190515-A-ZZ999-4444

The program, funded by the State Department, helps African nations enhance peacekeeping and security capabilities. Of these four partner nations, three are now deploying their level 2 hospitals as part of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are proud to stand by our partners as we battle this deadly virus in Africa and around the globe," Air Force Lt. Gen. James Vechery, Africom's deputy commander, said. "As we work shoulder to shoulder, it is exciting to see our African partners putting the capabilities we've developed over the past few years to such great use during this global pandemic."

It is our hope that the support we provide to our partners enables them to lessen human suffering and strengthen their nations, their people and the global community."
Air Force Col. Krystal Murphy, Africom's deputy command surgeon

The hospitals are one example of Africom efforts to assist African partners to enhance their medical capabilities and pandemic response. Programs such as tactical combat casualty care training, medical readiness exercises and conferences focused on pandemic response efforts all demonstrate the long-term investment by the command.

Ghana, Senegal and Uganda independently decided to deploy their hospitals in support of their national response, said Air Force Maj. Mohamed Diallo, Africom international health specialist. Senegal and Uganda are using the hospitals as overflow facilities for existing hospitals. "We are going to start treating people," Lt. Col. Henry Obbo, Uganda Land Forces spokesman, said. "It's just put here... in case the means of health might require additional facilities."

Ugandan soldiers surround a circular tent frame as they prepare to stand it up.
Facility Buildiing
Ugandan soldiers work to set up the frame of a United Nations-standard level 2 mobile treatment facility at the Uganda Rapid Deployment Capabilities Center in Jinja, Uganda, May 13, 2019, as a part of vendor training under the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership program.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Grady Jones
VIRIN: 190503-A-ZZ999-3333
Several white tents and portable buildings in a large dirt field.
Mobile Treatment
A United Nations-standard level 2 mobile treatment facility stands in the motor pool of the Uganda Rapid Deployment Capabilities Center in Jinja, Uganda, May 16, 2019. Soldiers from Uganda conducted training on efficiently and effectively setting up, taking down and operating the mobile hospital as a part of vendor training under the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership program.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Grady Jones
VIRIN: 190516-A-ZZ999-2222C

Ghana, which has nearly 300 confirmed cases of COVID-19, is using the facility to treat those affected by the virus.

"Now more than ever, the United States is pleased to work together with the government, armed forces and people of Ghana," U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Stephanie Sullivan said. "This mobile hospital will directly serve those most in need. Together, we will emerge from this stronger and more united."

Sullivan echoed Ghanaian President Akufo Addo's call for all Ghanaians and residents of Ghana to stay home as much as possible, as it's one of the most effective ways to combat the pandemic and "flatten the curve."

Each hospital package includes 14 shelters with a total of 7,427 square feet of shelter space, consisting of an intensive care unit, a radiology unit and 20 beds.

"While these hospitals were originally designed to support Senegalese soldiers on the battlefield, the Senegalese military has now deployed one of these hospitals and personnel to the city of Touba to assist in the emergency response to the COVID-19 outbreak," said U.S. Ambassador to Senegal Tulinabo S. Mushingi.

Two Senegalese soldiers stand as two others lie on cots during training for setting up a mobile hospital.
Mobile Hospital
Senegalese soldiers participate in training on how to efficiently and effectively set up, take down and operate the mobile hospital at the Senegal Rapid Deployment Capabilities Center in Touba, Senegal. One of these hospitals and its trained medical staff are deployed to help cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo By: U.S. Embassy Senegal
VIRIN: 200414-O-ZZ999-1111

Combined with the support from other U.S. agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Agency for International Development, known as USAID, these contributions have greatly strengthened Senegal's ability to respond to the COVID-19 threat and demonstrate the strength of the strong 60-year U.S.-Senegalese partnership, the ambassador added.

The effort highlights a whole-of-government approach aimed at ensuring African partners are educated, resourced and supported to contain the spread of the virus, Africom officials said.

"This program, and the medical capabilities it brings to the COVID-19 fight on the African continent, is a prime example of the unique, continuing commitment that U.S. Africa Command pledges to our Africa partners throughout Africa," Air Force Col. Krystal Murphy, Africom's deputy command surgeon, said. "It is our hope that the support we provide to our partners enables them to lessen human suffering and strengthen their nations, their people and the global community."

(Army Staff Sgt. Flor Gonzalez is assigned to U.S. Africa Command.)