MKINGA DISTRICT, Tanzania – Fifteen Tanzanian animal healthcare professionals, soldiers from the U.S. Army 448th Civil Affairs Battalion, and the Joint Civil Affairs Team in Tanzania assigned to Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa came together to participate in a two-week Veterinary Civic Action Program, or VETCAP, training session in Mkinga District, Tanzania Sept. 3-14.
The VETCAP was broken into two stages: three days of classroom training and eight days of field training in eight different villages in the district.
In this region of Tanzania there are three echelons of animal healthcare professionals for the district; a district veterinary officer, livestock officers, or LOs who have three years of training, and livestock field officers, or LFOs, who have two years of training.
“I am a veterinarian and as such I act as a colleague to the district veterinary officers. I also assist the district veterinary officers during classroom training as a disease diagnostic professional. I assist the field training on identification of diseases, application of medication and treatment of diseases,” said Maj. Brad Keough, veterinarian officer in charge of the 448th Civil Affairs Bn.’s functional specialty team.
The classroom portion of the VETCAP provided the professionals a refresher on clinical material and also facilitated the growth of the newly formed friendships.
“As a practicing veterinarian … this is very fulfilling. As a Soldier, to be able to come out and do the humanitarian portion of this and know that I’m building partnership [between the] U.S. government and foreign governments and increasing stability within the villages — it’s very fulfilling,” said Keough.
Set up in the heart of a village in the countryside, the group spent three days in the classroom engaging in conversation on specific topics, areas of issues in their region, and bonding over common interests.
“I learn a great deal during these VETCAPs, there are a lot of diseases that are specific to this area of the world and this gives me a chance to learn about them and maybe even see a case of it while out here working with my fellow veterinarians,” said Keough.
The group shared their knowledge and learned from each other’s varying levels of formal education and personal experiences of functioning as a local animal healthcare professional. The exchange of facts and information highlighted the similarities in knowledge base and courses of treatment between the Tanzanian and American animal workers as well as the area-specific concerns.
“It [the classroom training] helped me to help the people in the field practice. In the field practical, we learned how to treat many diseases and treat the animal,” said Juma Naomuo, a livestock field officer.
The eight days of field training allowed the animal healthcare professionals to utilize their skills by treating various animals in the area. The area the VETCAP concentrated on consisted of farmers and herdsman that rely on their livestock for their livelihood.
“It [the VETCAP] is very important; in this particular culture they are considered pastoralists — so they live with their livestock. All day long, their full time job is to travel with the animals and ensure they have adequate feed and water. Anytime we can help increase the capacity of production of their animals, we are directly impacting their livelihoods, their families and their villages’ productivity,” said Keough. “Our hope is to increase the capacity of the livestock workers who can maintain animal health and efficiently combat serious animal diseases.”
The LFOs and LOs tackled the overwhelming amount of animals at each village with enthusiasm each day. The team mainly focused on preventative treatments and administered de-worming and de-ticking medication to the animals. The training resulted in the treatment of diseases and injuries of more than 12,500 animals during the eight-day field-training portion.
“I enjoyed giving treatment. … This has given us credibility as doctors with the farmers since they see us working together. We learned a lot from the Americans. This will help to change the health of the animals, which will be very good,” said Naomuo.”