News: Afghan government hosts health clinic for Marjah residents
Story by Sgt. Earnest J. Barnes
MARJAH DISTRICT, Helmand province, Afghanistan — Local representatives of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and service members with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, hosted a medical clinic at the Paham Chareh bazaar recently.
Doctor Habivulah, a local Afghan physician; along with a midwife, two medical sergeants with the 4th Tolai, 3rd Kandak, 4th Brigade, 215th Corps, and several Navy corpsmen with 3/6; assessed and treated 247 residents of Marjah.
“The health initiative [allowed local residents to] gain trust in their local physicians. Medical education was a little slacked [during the rule of the insurgency], so a big problem that medical providers have is [the people] feel [the doctors] are not well educated,” said Navy Lt. Robert Sklar, a Peekskill, N.Y., native and the battalion surgeon for 3/6. “What we do with these medical initiatives is get them set up, advertised, and out to the people. [Local residents] come for the free health care, and they get introduced to the doctors. [They] see that these doctors are able to treat them; it helps them build trust in their own government and medical system."
At approximately 5:30 a.m., Afghan National Security Force members and Marines arrived at the bazaar to clear the area, set up security checkpoints, and set up areas for screening the incoming patients. The lines started to form outside the bazaar just as the set-up was complete.
Members from the Afghan Local Police and Afghan National Army searched incoming patients for the security of everyone seeking medical attention, according to Staff Sgt. Ali Abass, a soldier with the 4th Tolai. The ANA soldiers, members of the ALP, and the Marines directed the men, women, and children into their respective waiting areas.
Corpsmen from 3/6 assessed each patient, and one-by-one they were directed to one of the medical providers.
“One medic was the director showing people where to go, and the other was with the [corpsmen] and was the adviser,” said Ali Abass. “My medics [want more] experience, so they worked with the corpsman to gain experience. We get a lot of experience when we work together as a team.”
Another group of care-giving service members that helped with the clinic was the Female Engagement Team serving 3/6, who screened females and children prior to them receiving care from the midwife.
Additionally, the FET gave hygiene classes to the children to teach them how to properly brush their teeth and care for their bodies. The children were all smiles when they left with new toothbrushes and small hygiene items.
One hundred and fourteen men, 54 women, and 79 children received treatment for everything from stomachaches to burns during the four-hour long clinic.
“There were a lot of [gastrointestinal] complaints, acid reflux, muscle pains, and aches,” said Sklar, a 2009 graduate of the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine in Old West Berry, N.Y. “We had one child that was struck by a car four days ago and had testicular trauma. Hopefully he moves up to a higher echelon of care. We cleaned it up, but he needs to get to a hospital, and his father was well aware of that.”
Sklar said some of the patients with more serious cases were evaluated and then recommended to seek more advanced medical care at the hospital in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, due to the limited medical supplies and lack of advanced medical equipment available on site. The clinic brought to light the importance of seeking medical attention when needed instead of allowing any condition to grow worse, added Sklar.
“This has got them started with the health care they needed. It helps them with their education in realizing their health care is important and helps them realize what needs to be followed up on and what does not,” said Sklar. “They are gaining awareness and the trust in the local doctors.”
The residents were grateful for the treatment they received and let all involved in the medical clinic know how much they appreciated the care.
Abdul Halik, a resident of Marjah, said clinics like this help because people are too poor to afford medical care.
“This is very good to help us,” said Abdul Halik. “We are very happy. This is good process for us.”
This was the third medical initiative 3/6 has been involved with since they arrived in Afghanistan.
Editor’s note: Third battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.