War on Terrorism

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

On the Ground: Human Rights Conference Adds to Optimism in Iraq

American Forces Press Service

July 14, 2009 - A human rights conference, a meeting of Iraqi and Kurdish forces and medical technician training are just a few events U.S. forces in Iraq have been involved in recently to give hope in Iraq's future. The human rights conference began July 12 at NATO's offices in Baghdad and will last 10 days, as part of an effort to educate military and government leaders on the importance of human rights. The conference is being attended by members of Iraq's ministries of defense, interior, human rights and justice, as well as the Red Crescent Organization, officials said.

Italy's ambassador to Iraq, Maurizio Melani, told the human rights audience that participation in the workshop is the best way to validate Iraq's human rights vision.

"In a country where hatred and revenge used to rule the day, a human rights law is a valuable guide with which to move forward," Melani said. "Human beings can't forget past mistakes and will remember for generations the suffering that was endured. Respect for human rights will help to reduce the bitterness."

The conference's purpose is to "deepen the understanding of human rights in a civil society," said Army Lt. Col. Jeff Julum, senior advisor to the Iraqi army on ethics and leadership development.

"Our goal is to see Iraqis comfortable in growing their ethics practices," he said. "Increasing their professionalism in human rights will help to build a strong society."

Iraq Human Rights Minister Wijdan Salim also attended the opening ceremonies of the conference and is part of a larger focus on human rights throughout Iraq. She is scheduled to lead a July 20 symposium in Baghdad focusing on human rights.

Meanwhile, Iraqi and Kurdish security forces met on Combat Outpost Cobra in Diyala on July 8 with Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Multinational Force Iraq commander, to discuss issues facing the province.

During the meeting, army and police commanders from Iraqi and Kurdish security forces discussed progress being made in the area and the strong cooperation developing between the forces.

Most recently, the forces recently completed "Operation Glad Tidings of Benevolence II," a combined military operation that began in May and marked the first time Iraqi and Kurdish forces joined together to plan and conduct a major operation.

As part of coalition efforts to make Iraqis increasingly self-sufficient, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division recently renovated a mobile medical equipment training truck for health care providers and technicians at primary health care centers and hospitals across Iraq.

"Originally, it was a simple blood laboratory and X-ray truck," said Mohamad Husam, the division's deputy program manager for operations, maintenance and sustainment.

The 40-by-8-foot truck has state-of-the-art medical equipment, including a dental chair and a laboratory, an X-ray machine capable of making images of a patient while either standing or lying on a table, a computer, and equipment to acquire the images made by the X-ray "computed radiography" process, which uses large, flat cassettes of film coated with a barium compound instead of silver.

"The key mission of this vehicle is to go out to the remote primary health care centers and conduct operations and maintenance training for the maintenance staff at the health clinics," said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Joseph Tuite, the division's director of operations, maintenance and sustainment.

The truck also is something of a mobile billboard as about every square millimeter of space on both sides is covered with large graphics displaying health care.

The rolling instructional workshop has most of the equipment going into 133 newly built primary health care centers and 44 renovated hospitals, the construction for which had been managed by the division, and then delivered to the Iraqi Health Ministry. A $16.1 million follow-on budget for maintenance includes a portion for training Iraqi personnel to operate, maintain and repair the equipment that comes with the newly constructed or renovated facilities.

"The medical facilities in Iraq have had high turnover of trained technicians who can care for their equipment," said Steve Rivera, deputy director of the division's reconstruction division. "We hope this mobile teaching lab
will attract new personnel to fill long-standing vacancies."

Members of the operations, maintenance and sustainment branch repaired and improved the vehicle by adding a dental chair with vacuum, supply and waste water lines, plus additional dental and laboratory instruments. A laboratory sink has hot and cold running water and two on-board generators supply the electricity if no power lines are nearby.

"This is a key capacity development effort," Tuite said. "The U.S. government constructed numerous health care clinics throughout the country. Now we're continuing that process by providing additional maintenance training for the Iraqis so they can maintain their own equipment to improve the health care for this country after the U.S. government leaves."

The computed radiography X-ray equipment aboard the truck requires no chemicals to acquire the image. Instead, a processing machine automatically removes the exposed barium film and scans it with a laser beam, which activates the image. After the image is transferred to the computer, the scanning machine erases the picture, making the same sheet of barium film able to be reused thousands of times. Once transferred to the computer, the images can be manipulated easily to improve their readability, printed onto sheet film, and transferred electronically to other doctors in the same hospital or to distant locations via the Internet.

The truck's laboratory instruments, which are typical to those already provided to Iraqi clinics and hospitals, can help measure or diagnose blood group and Rh factor, blood cholesterol, amount of sugar in blood, blood hemoglobin percentage, blood urea, red blood cell sediment rate, Rose Bengal test to detect Malta fever, typhus and uric acid.

(Rick Haverinen with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division contributed to this report. Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq, Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division news releases.)

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