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Article by Lt Col Ntsikelelo Mantshongo Photographs by Capt Mathew De Jager

The Exercise Blue Kunene Medical Team composed of mainly elements of South Africans, Zimbabweans and Namibians used a local school in Opuwa, North of Namibia as their mission accommodation. The core mission of the team was to attend to medical needs of the residents of Opuwa and surrounding areas, inclusive of immunizations, medical checkups, dental procedures and HIV testing just to mention a few. In essence, the exercise medical team’s mandate is to determine disease profiles and impact medical knowledge to local community.


To their surprise on their arrival at their earmarked mission accommodation, they were welcomed by an army of cockroaches and other crawling insects. The team had to call for the services of the Opuwa District Hospital pest control operators to deal with the creepy crawlies. They had to use delta kill in the form of wet spray which according to Capt Stellan John, an environmental health practitioner from the South African Military Health Services based at Thaba Tshwane Community Centre is very effective and could benefit the control of these pests, albeit on a temporary basis. This situation could be alleviated as they are intending to leave some pesticides with pest control operators at the local hospital to continue with the endeavour.

Cockroaches present one of the most significant public health-risks, carrying diseases such as dysentery, gastroenteritis, diarrhea and many others. They are nocturnal creatures, which spend the daytime hours hiding in cracks and crevices around the sources of food and water such as sinks and toilets. Food contamination occurs when the cockroaches move from land-fill sites to food preparation areas.


Capt John emphasised the fact that they had undertaken a lot of work since arriving in Opuwa which includes evaluating the water treatment plant, inspecting other facilities and inspecting the local land-fill site. On the latter, the Captain suggests that recycling of glass could come a long way and could be beneficial to the community if they would adopt the Reduce, Reuse Recycle (RRR) approach as recyclables are commercialised and could boost the local economy.  

Capt John also highlighted that tuberculosis (TB) and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are the most prevalent diseases and these need to be addressed urgently. Personally this is the first experience for Capt John to be involved in this type of exercise which involves working with people in dire need of basic health assistance. He values the fact that as health practitioners, they shared ideas, challenges and provided recommendations where necessary.


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