AFRICOM mobile hospitals help fight COVID-19 in Africa

U.S. mobile hospitals sent to Ghana, Senegal and Uganda are being used to treat growing numbers of coronavirus patients.

The 7,427-square-foot mobile hospitals include 14 shelters, intensive care and radiology units, and 20 beds, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said. These modular hospitals can be packed up and shipped abroad to perform surgeries and to stabilize wounded Soldiers. They also offer water purification, sewage disposal, and command and control capabilities..

Each one has 20 beds for inpatients and can treat up to 40 outpatients per day, providing space for post-operative services, intensive care units, surgery, diagnostic imaging, laboratory services, dental services and preventive medicine, according to Maj. Mohamed Diallo, AFRICOM’S international health specialist.

Military teams of four to five service members have trained local medics to use the deployable facilities.

“As we work shoulder to shoulder, it is exciting to see our African partners putting the capabilities we’ve developed over the past few years to such great use during this global pandemic,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. James Vechery, AFRICOM’s deputy commander.

Soldiers from the Uganda People’s Defence Force set up a mobile hospital sent by the United States. STAFF SGT. GRADY JONES/U.S. ARMY

COVID-19 cases have risen sharply in Africa, with the number of confirmed cases surpassing 10,000 the second week of April. Public health officials fear the continent lacks the doctors and equipment needed to combat a pandemic.

“It’s probably fortunate that Africa is in one of the last waves,” AFRICOM’s deputy command surgeon Col. Krystal Murphy told Voice of America.

With nearly 600 COVID-19 cases, Ghana has deployed its mobile hospital in the Accra suburbs and is using it to treat patients.

For now, Senegal and Uganda have used their mobile hospitals for overflow, taking in other patients to free up local hospital beds and local medical professionals so they can devote more resources to isolating and treating those with COVID-19, Murphy said.

However, Senegalese and Ugandan officials could shift that plan based on demand.

“I’m more than confident that if they have to take care of COVID patients within these facilities, they will be able to do that,” Diallo said.

The mobile hospitals were provided through the U.S.’s African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership, which focuses on bolstering military medical response capabilities for combat casualty care and public health concerns, including pandemics. The hospitals were deployed at a cost of $8.5 million in late 2019 and earlier this year before the pandemic, AFRICOM said.

“This program, and the medical capabilities it brings to the COVID-19 fight on the African continent, is a prime example of the unique, continuing commitment that U.S. Africa Command pledges to our Africa partners throughout Africa,” Murphy said.

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