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News | July 13, 2016

JTF-Bravo partners with Honduran health officials to ensure safe drinking water for locals

By 1st Lt. Jenniffer Rodriguez Joint Task Force-Bravo Medical Element

Soldiers under the command of Joint Task Force-Bravo Medical Element Preventive Medicine section traveled to the community of Comayagua to obtain water samples and provide education to locals on how to maintain clean and drinkable water for the public, June 14.

The Preventive Medicine team performs such missions on a weekly basis with their main objectives being to perform inspections of local potable water, assist the local community with laboratory sampling procedures, obtain entomological surveys and provide on-the-spot education about water sanitation procedures, the effects of chemical and bacterial agents in the water and how they can affect the human body.

"We do bacteriological analysis and chemical analysis of potable water on a routine basis," said U.S. Army Maj. Jeff Finley, an Environmental Science Engineering Officer from Columbia, Missouri deployed to JTF-Bravo. "Coming out here enables the Honduran community to learn more about what is in the water that can impact their health. At the same time, our Soldiers get an opportunity to train at levels that they normally don't get a chance to experience. So, it is a mutual benefit for both the Hondurans and us at MEDEL."

Finley's Preventive Medicine team consists of three Preventive Medicine Specialists and one Veterinary Food Inspection Specialist.

"We test the waters from a variety of municipalities as well; for example, hospitals, schools, orphanages. We tend to test those very frequently because those populations are at higher risk," Finley said. "In the end, we have made a lot of progress and improvements; but we still have more to do, and we do it by checking one tank at a time."

The Ministry of Health of Comayagua and MEDEL-Preventive Medicine coordinate the weekly inspections.

Javier Ochoa, Honduras Ministry of Health Environmental Health Technologist, stated, "Before starting this project two years ago, we were only capable of testing bacterial contents in the water, and transportation to the rural areas in Comayagua was very limited. Now that we have the help of the preventive medicine team we are now able to reach out to small local communities in Comayagua and are able to test both bacterial and chemical contents in the water. Once I receive those samples I then report the results to the government and possibly be able prevent the public from contracting communicable diseases from possibly contaminated waters."

Ochoa accompanies the Preventive Medicine team each week to collect the water samples. He then is in charge of reporting the analytical report to the local government.

"Speaking for the Ministry of Health in Comayagua, we are very grateful to have such assistance," he said. "We have seen improvements in the water and in the overall health of the community, and for that we are very thankful for all the help." 

The JTF-B MEDEL provides a full spectrum of health services to JTF-B in order to maintain a healthy and resilient force. MEDEL supports JTF-B objectives by conducting medical engagements in enhancing healthcare capabilities, infrastructures and aid to underserved populations in cooperation with partner nation ministries of health.