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Two new task forces led by the U.S. Africa Command (Africom) have targeted one of the biggest threats to life in Africa: malaria.
The armed forces have not been immune to the effects of malaria, a mosquito-borne illness that today kills 600,000 African children yearly. Indeed, soldiers in the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and World War II were decimated by the illness. In modern times, however, sub-Saharan Africa bears the brunt of the disease burden.
Africom troops have been particularly struck by the devastating impact that malaria has on the continent. “This was a real eye opener to us,” says Army Col. Dr. John Andrus, Africom’s deputy surgeon and medical logistics division chief. Africom has been trying to prevent malaria through the distribution of mosquito nets and education.
Now, Africom is going a step further, establishing the East African Malaria Task Force, which includes Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Tanzania. They have plans to create a similar task force in West Africa later this year. African members will lead the initiatives, while the United States will play a supportive role. Plans have been set for a late July meeting in Dar es Salaam to identify ways to continue the fight against malaria.
Andrus noted, “This will give them the opportunity to move forward against a very challenging disease in a very positive way.” He emphasized that the task forces align with Africom’s goals of helping African nations confront their own domestic problems and will help to build confidence within partner-nation’s militaries that there will be reciprocity when they carry out their missions.
In terms of the militia, Andrus asserts that this initiative promotes the concept of “stability through health”—that sound health will lead to the greater ability of African troops to keep the peace in their own countries. Meanwhile, the task force will also serve to protect United States Troops stationed in sub-Saharan Africa and other malaria-endemic areas.
After the July meeting of the East African Malaria Task Force, the first meeting of the new West Africa Malaria Task Force stands for November.
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