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Impact of Poverty in Africa

TENGA, Mozambique — Hundreds of Mozambican villagers lined a dusty dirt road at dawn Aug. 5 to receive medical care from U.S. service members and medics with the Armed Forces for the Defenses of Mozambique (FADM).

The villagers were offered optometry and dental care, along with basic medical assistance as part of Exercise Shared Accord 2010, a 10-day exercise designed to increase U.S. Africa Command partner nation capacity for peace and stability operations.

Adequate medical care is hard to come by in Mozambique. It is a country that has an average life expectancy of 41 years due to the impact of preventable and treatable diseases like malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

Patients sought treatment for everything from the common cold, which in Mozambique can be fatal, to severe arthritis. Regardless of the aliment they treated, medical personnel involved said they felt satisfied with being able to make a difference for so many people.

“I think it’s phenomenal to be able to help,” said U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Hamilton, a hospital corpsman with 4th Landing Support Battalion. “[Being here] carries a huge impact — especially with the vitamins we were able to provide. Many people here have such a poor diet, and they don’t get a lot of the nutrition they should. Many of the problems we’re seeing are just from that.”

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Greg Klein, a dentist with 4th Medical Battalion, said many patients traveled up to two hours on foot to receive treatment, and the American and Mozambican service members didn’t disappoint. They set up a full-service dental clinic able to pull rotten or damaged teeth.
“Most of the remote villages don’t have dental care,” said Klein, a reservist who works as a civilian general dental practitioner. “They have to travel into Maputo [Mozambique’s capital city] to get their care.”

Klein explained that the satellite dental clinic, is much closer to home. Because of the clinic’s location, three American and two Mozambican dental officers were able to see more than 80 patients for small fillings and tooth extractions.

For Klein, the work is a passion easily transferred from civilian life to serving in Africa.

“I’ve gotten a lot out of it personally,” said Klein. “There is such gratification in working on the people here. Everyone leaves with a smile and it’s a great feeling.”

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