More than 75% of Africans depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Most of it is livestock like chickens, cattle, goats, sheep, camels and donkeys.
Without proper medical care, many of these animals will suffer from treatable illnesses. The same goes for pets such as dogs and cats. For military veterinarians in Africa, part of their mission is to help local people with the health of their animals and to protect public health from diseases that can be transmitted to humans.
U.S. Army Maj. Sage Umphries, a veterinarian assigned to the 353rd Civil Affairs Functional Specialty Team, stationed at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, recently participated in Exercise Shared Accord 2022, a joint and bilateral training exercise which took place in the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa 11-27 July 2022.
The Medical Readiness Exercise (MEDREX) was planned and executed by the U.S. Army’s Southern European Task Force, Africa, which allowed U.S. Army military medical personnel and their African partners to exchange medical practices, procedures and techniques that enhance treatment capabilities. , resulting in lasting relationships between health professionals. Besides South Africa, seven other African countries – including Senegal, Kenya, Ghana, Angola, Chad, Rwanda and Morocco – are expected to host MEDREX in 2022.
Umphries joined the U.S. Army Reserves in 2008 after graduating from University of Missouri-Columbia veterinary school in 2004. Her family has a long history of military service, including her grandmother, Mary Rita Umphries, who was an officer candidate school instructor during World War II, and applied multiple times to veterinary schools across the United States
“My grandmother learned that there was no place for women in veterinary medicine,” Umphries said. “So she’s the one who put my white coat on me.”
Umphries is now using her veterinary skills to leave a lasting impact on the health of livestock and pets in Africa.
The first two weeks of Shared Accord’s veterinary mission involved carrying out door-to-door rabies vaccinations in KwaZulu-Natal province. The teams were made up of South African National Defense Force (SANDF) and US personnel. They announced their service using megaphones and in two weeks administered 5,370 rabies vaccinations in two districts.
“It was very convenient because they were dealing with a rabies epidemic,” Umphries said. “Each district has an agricultural vet who is in charge of the area and some of the places they had to reach were just too dangerous. They wanted to vaccinate these animals to try to protect public health.
The third week was dedicated to a neutering clinic working alongside members of the South African Veterinary Institute at the Owen Sitole College of Agriculture, Empangeni Veterinary Clinic. The objective was to help the clinic catch up on animals awaiting intervention.
South African Veterinary Institute Candidate Dr Connie Swanepoel worked with Umphries to neuter and neuter animals brought to the clinic. Swanepole works full-time as a veterinarian for the South African National Defense Force.
“I love my job and I love animals,” Swanepoel said. “You get a lot of great opportunities, like this. It’s always nice to work with vets who’ve been in practice for longer. You pick up tricks of the trade on how to be more efficient. I only got my graduating from vet school two years ago, so I’m still learning.
Umphries enjoyed the experience of leading the Shared Accord mission with the SANDF veterinary team.
“It’s great to be able to see how another country practices medicine,” Umphries said.
“Look at their abilities, discover their education process. They are all very educated and well trained. It was a very good experience.
This is Umphries’ second deployment to the Horn of Africa. This time, she attends many other missions that take her outside of East Africa.
“We are being asked for herd health veterinary commitments from other countries, as well as the work we are doing in Djibouti,” she said. “One of our main goals is to improve the overall health of the herd, as well as the longevity and mortality of the animals.”
Through exercises like Shared Accord, the work that vets such as Umphries, Swanepoel and military Civil Affairs teams provide to the agricultural environment in Africa will help shape the overall future of livestock health on the continent.
|Date posted:||08.12.2022 04:24|
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