Senegal and Ghana previously received one United Nations-level 2 mobile hospital each, thanks to the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership, a State Department program which aims to promote peacekeeping operations by institutionalizing security forces’ enabling capabilities, including engineering and medical capabilities.
Now, Senegal and Ghana have deployed those hospitals to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected more than 1.2 million around the world and killed nearly 68,000 as of Monday afternoon, according to the World Health Organization.
“The military providers who operate these hospitals are already seeing patients,” Maj. Mohamed Diallo, an international health specialist with AFRICOM, told Military Times.
The mobile hospitals can fit 20 beds and can perform a variety of medical procedures including damage control surgery, post-operative services, intensive care, orthopedic surgery, diagnostic imaging and laboratory services, dental services, preventive medicine, according to AFRICOM.
Senegal first deployed its hospital on March 17 to Touba, which has the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the country. The hospital has already seen more than 750 patients, and is designed to treat “overflow” patients from local civilian hospitals. Meanwhile, Ghana deployed its hospital on March 23 and is using it to treat COVID-19 patients at the El Wak Stadium.
The African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership was first established in fiscal year 2015, and since then, the Uniformed Services University’s Center for Global Health Engagement has worked with commands like AFRICOM to craft medical courses for African partners’ militaries, according to a news release from the USU.
“The medical training program uses a ‘train the trainer’ approach so that these countries will be capable of generating their own medical forces in the future,” Diallo said.
As a result, the program promotes interoperability so that medical forces from partner nations can employ the same equipment as U.S. military personnel, the command said.
“Any medical staff member from any other country with the same standard equipment set would be able to walk into this facility and assist,” said Col. Krystal Murphy, deputy command surgeon with AFRICOM.
Additionally, both Senegal and Ghana independently chose to deploy the hospitals in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — a sign that the partners are becoming more independent, Diallo said.
“This is important to note as it demonstrates progress by our partners…this is Africans caring for Africans, enabled by U.S. support and training,” Diallo said.
There are 226 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Senegal, and 214 cases in Ghana, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. has approximately 6,000 Department of Defense personnel on the entire continent. In West Africa, U.S. troops are primarily tasked with supporting counterterrorism operations against violent extremist organizations by providing logistics support, airlift, intelligence sharing, among other things with allied partners.