By Army Sgt. Michael Nyeste
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 16, 2008 - The rooms of an abandoned school once used to help children learn were recently used to help Afghans heal. Afghan forces and their U.S. Special Forces partners provided humanitarian assistance to the people of Arghandab district of Afghanistan's Kandahar province through a medical civic action program Sept. 22.
"We brought something to the area they just can't get: health care," said an Army surgeon with Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan. By policy, Special Forces team members' names aren't released.
Afghan and coalition medics quickly went to work setting up stations in the abandoned schoolhouse. Once medical, dental and humanitarian aid stations were set up, villagers began to trickle in. As word about the treatment center began to spread, the villagers arrived in droves to receive medical attention and aid.
Doctors and medics treated numerous cases of dehydration, malnourishment, infections and skin abrasions, as well as other symptoms and sicknesses, the officer said.
"We couldn't cure everything, but we could diagnose and advise them where to go for further treatment," the officer added. "Things like ear infections we could cure virtually on the spot. If they didn't see us, they wouldn't have had access to the medication to treat minor infections before they reached a more advanced, serious state."
Though the doctors and medics do everything they can to help, some problems are just out of their reach.
"I think the worst part of the day was seeing a baby that was prematurely born," said a combat medic. "It doesn't look like he's going to make it. It breaks my heart seeing so many kids and knowing there's some you can't help."
Although some patients require more advanced medical treatment, the ones the team could help immediately make it all worthwhile, the medic said.
"When they say 'thank you,' when they are grateful, that's the most rewarding," the medic said. "Making those kids' lives a little better and a little easier is what it's all about."
The Afghans also received dental care.
"We saw a lot of stained teeth and cavities," said another medic who performed dental work. "We pulled a few teeth. The adults had a lot of decay."
In addition to dental care, the medics also showed villagers how to prevent tooth decay by teaching them how to properly care for their teeth.
"I would choose a thousand times over to teach the basics of dental hygiene instead of pulling teeth," the medic said.
Villages also received humanitarian assistance items, including rice, beans, flour, toothbrushes, toothpaste, blankets, shoes, health awareness posters, backpacks and soccer balls, the officer said.
"We were expecting roughly 400 people to come through, but approximately 850 showed up, 500 of which were kids," the officer said. "We had to go back to the firebase to get more supplies to hand out to meet the overwhelming demand. Everyone that came in walked away with something that they needed. I'm just glad we could do something to make their lives a little better."
The villagers weren't the only ones who walked away with something.
"I had a little girl say 'thank you,'" the officer said. "That was really special. It just made my day."
(Army Sgt. Michael Nyeste serves in the Task Force 71 Public Affairs Office.)