Service members assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, in cooperation with the government of Djibouti, recently kicked off a health awareness campaign in Petite Doudah, Djibouti. Soldiers with the 407th Civil Affairs Battalion functional specialty team and CJTF-HOA medical specialists are facilitating a 48-week Basic Home Health Awareness program to educate Djiboutians on issues essential to healthy living.
The goal of the program is to provide support to the Djiboutian Social Development Agency, known by the local acronym ADDS, whose overall effort is to combat poverty and create self-sustainment projects throughout Djibouti.
“Our relationship with ADDS began in August, 2014,” said U.S. Army Capt. Gregory Heller, 407th CA Battalion, Civil Affairs Team 0732 team chief. “Through discussion with ADDS staff we began talking about obstacles they faced. That is when a discussion of health related support came to be.”
As part of the discussions with ADDS, the CA team learned about the Women’s Self Help Groups, which meet in villages throughout the Arta region.
According to Heller, these groups focus on community level economic development education through savings and micro-loan programs within some of the poorest Djiboutian neighborhoods. The 407th saw the perfect opportunity to assist ADDS with their health education initiatives.
“We discussed how programs like the Women’s Self-Help Group could be enhanced to support the overall mission of ADDS,” said Heller. “We agreed that we would be able to create something to help address the health education concerns of the population and we came up with the Basic Health Initiative.”
The plans finally came to fruition on Feb 3, when the 407th CA and CJTF-HOA medical specialists held the first Basic Home Health Awareness session in the village of Petite Doudah. The 48-week program will provide supplemental basic home health awareness topic sessions to Arta region women’s SHGs to support the livelihood and health of local children, women, and families.
The CA team met with some of the local groups to discover which health issues were important to the local population.
“The topics being covered by the basic health program are things like basic hygiene, first aid, food handling and preparation, sanitation, and basic dental care,” Heller noted. “The topics were chosen based on the reality that many of the women and villagers participating in the sessions have little to no education and have very little resources.”
Although CJTF-HOA is currently supporting the health initiative, the overall goal is to help ADSS to establish a sustainable program using local agencies.
“We have begun reaching out, introducing, and coordinating with other organizations like the Red Crescent to hopefully take over certain topics related to their mission,” said Heller. “We would like to eventually see the organizations within the community take charge of this effort.”
The Basic Home Health Awareness program is currently running through Dec. 2015, with six sessions scheduled for each of the 16 Women’s Self Help Groups across the Arta region.