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Gracias a Dios receives health care from Honduran, U.S. services

By Maria Pinel Joint Task Force-Bravo, Public Affairs Office

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The Honduran Army, representatives with the Honduran Ministry of Health and volunteers from Honduran medical schools, participated in a Medical Readiness Training Exercise, or MEDRETE, with support from Servicemembers from Joint Task Force-Bravo Medical Element, in the village of Nueva Jerusalén, Gracias a Dios Department, Honduras, January 28, 2016, providing the local population of this remote area with free medical care and medications.

MEDRETEs are a part of U.S. Southern Command's commitment to supporting partnership in the Central American region, and also provide Servicemembers a chance to integrate with local health providers in the nation, making this exercise a valuable joint operation between partner nations in the area and the U.S.

"Honduras has been an ally to the U.S. and these exercises encourage a friendship between both countries, and overall are a benefit for the people that live in these communities that are hard to reach, as is the case in Gracias a Dios," said Honduran Army Sgt. Luis Alonso Aleman, 6th Infantry Battalion officer in charge of preventive medicine. "This is a huge benefit since they don't have access to proper medical attention in their communities."

Aleman provided a health class for the local population that visited the MEDRETE site, teaching them about proper personal hygiene and sanitation, which included tips on how to purify water for drinking and how to prevent diseases that are attacking the region such as Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika.

Currently, the Gracias a Dios region relies on deteriorated and under-stocked health centers. The class Aleman facilitated at the MEDRETE, was the first step in a series of services for patients transiting room-to-room to receive the proper medical attention and medication, which the remote region lacks.

"It is important that we receive this help, particularly in this area, since the health situation is not good," said Candida Derek Jackson, Nueva Jerusalén Municipal Health Director. "This is a decentralized municipality, and therefore the funds we receive are not enough for the purchasing of medications, given the way the population is distributed. Through this exercise people will receive the proper medication, after a medical diagnosis, and this is a great aid for the Miskito people.

Supervisors from the children's clinic and the regional coordinator for the promotion of health accompanied Derek, who oversaw the patient referral process and also helped translate conversations from Spanish to the local Miskito, dialect, explaining to them the procedures to follow.

Many people traveled for hours from different communities and villages, walking under the sun and through the difficult terrain, to receive free basic health care and medicine.
"Nueva Jerusalén, Belen and Cocobila have three health centers which are available to cover 25 villages of Gracias a Dios, so today there are people from several communities present," Derek said.

"This type of mission, not only for Nueva Jerusalén, but also for the neighboring communities, is very important," said China Taylor Wood, Nueva Jerusalén Health Center nurse.. "We are lacking medication and through this people can de-worm their children and also receive vitamins. This mission is very important for this community."

Due to bad weather conditions the mission was cut short, however in one day's work, over 470 people were able to receive medical care, dental care and medications.

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