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News | March 5, 2020

411th Civil Affairs Battalion, Rwandan officials partner for veterinary ‘One Health’ Assessment

By Story by Tech. Sgt. Ashley Taylor USACAPOC

Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa’s 411th Civil Affairs Functional Specialty Team (CA FXST) recently returned from an assessment of the veterinary services and capabilities found in Rwanda.

The week-long assessment, which ran Feb. 16-22, was completed using a concept known as “One Health,” which, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is a worldwide strategy for expanding interdisciplinary collaborations and communications in all aspects of health care for humans, animals and the environment. The assessment involved engagements with various agencies including the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda, USAID and the Rwandan Defense Force, in addition to local veterinarians.

“The main purpose of this mission is to lay the groundwork for future missions within Rwanda,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Eugene Johnson, 411th CA FXST veterinarian. “By partnering with multiple agencies and seeing the environment in person, we can better discover the skill level of the local veterinarians in both the clinical and lab aspects.”

He said some of the key capabilities the team was looking for during the assessment included opportunities for advanced training for veterinarians and veterinarian technicians, disease monitoring and response programs, along with training and development abilities.

“Each country faces different challenges when it comes to their environment, varying from skills, access to vaccinations, and tools they have available to them,” said Maj. Stephanie Wire, 411th CA FXST veterinarian. “Based on the knowledge from our team and the requests from the country, we are able to create a training plan for future engagements with the Rwandan organizations we are able to partner with.”

While local medical skills made up a major portion of the assessment, the CA FXST also evaluated Rwanda’s inter-relationship between people, animals and the environment.

Bernard Mugobu, chairperson of the Rwanda Council of Veterinary Doctors Inspection Committee, mentioned areas he believes local veterinarians could benefit from learning more about, including dairy cow mastitis management, swine production and disease outbreak prevention and mitigation, small animal surgery, and animal welfare.

“We still have some challenges in poultry disease, but to try and mitigate that problem, we are sending our vets internationally to bring more knowledge,” Mugobu said. “If we are able to create a good training plan together, we are open to working with the U.S. and look forward to future meetings.”

Overall, the CA FXT said they found the assessment to be enlightening, and were looking forward to working side-by-side with Rwandan veterinarians as the nation seeks to further promote a culture positively affecting animal health systems to provide local, regional, and national food security, animal health, and economic security for East African nations.

“We can’t train a vet alone. If we are able to work with the farmers and even the stakeholders to see value in herd management, the effects are more beneficial,” Johnson said. “By exchanging our knowledge with our Rwandan partners, we can create an impact that will affect many people long after we’ve left the country.”