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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

MBLT-5 and JSOTF-P Partner for Medical and Vet Missions in Sulu

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs

SULU, Philippines-More than 1,500 people gathered in Barangay Taglibi and surrounding areas to attend an education symposium and receive care at a Medical and Veterinarian Civic Action Program at Datu Uddin Bahjin Central Elementary School in the Patikul municipality Jan. 8.

Organized by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Marine Battalion Landing Team-5 in collaboration with Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, patients received medical and dental care and prescriptions.

Additionally, farmers brought their animals for parasite control medication and vitamin treatments.

“It’s a great day and I’m very thankful to be here with our partners in peace; MBLT-5 and the community. As I look out into the crowd, I see the future professionals and those who will one day be making a difference in Jolo,” said JSOTF-P’s Army Special Forces team leader.

At the symposium titled “Importance of Education Awareness,” prominent leaders in the community including barangay representatives, MBLT-5 officers, teachers and School Principal Hja Sitti Lina Asjal all spoke about the role everyone plays in educating children in Sulu.

“What matters most is not what we become, but what others become because of us. These children here are the future, and the future of our education in Sulu. We thank all of you for coming and helping to develop this relationship with our school officials and the military,” said Asjal.

After the opening ceremonies, patients and farmers lined up to receive care. JSOTF-P’s Military Information Support Team was also on-hand, handing out coloring and comic books, as well as playing with the children.

Attendees were also given the opportunity to see a traditional Filipino dance put together by the students.

The following day, a VETCAP was put together by MBLT-5 and JSOTF-P at the AFP Marine camp headquarters. Many of the camp’s dogs and other pets were given anti-rabies vaccines and treated for parasites. The camp’s landowner, Hadja Hadja Samsarani, brought her cow to receive deworming and vitamin treatments.

At the VETCAP, Samsarani said that local farmers didn’t bring their animals due to concerns about two cows from Eastern Sulu that reportedly became sick sometime after a joint US-AFP-GRP exercise in 2008.

JSOTF-P Veterinarian Lt. Col. Stephen Goldsmith said this story periodically circulates among the farmers. However, according to Goldsmith, the report was never confirmed and the medications used in the exercise were very mild and non-reactive.

Goldsmith emphasized that the treatments given during VETCAPs are proven safe and effectively kill parasites, resulting in weight gain and improved health. Often, the animals on Sulu are in poor health and very emaciated due to malnutrition and severe parasite infection. Some have diarrhea, skin infections and are weak and stunted.

“In many of the barangays on Sulu, after the VETCAPs many farmers report dramatic health improvement with weight gain, removal of parasites, increased activity and improved skin and body condition,” said Goldsmith.

In the coming weeks, Goldsmith will go back to Patikul and give a seminar to all the barangay chairmen in the area, to spread awareness on the diseases common on Sulu and the effectiveness and safety of medications. These same medications are used in other agricultural regions in the Philippines by farmers and the Philippine Department of Agriculture.

At the request of the Philippine government, JSOTF-P partners with the AFP to conduct a variety of humanitarian, engineering and livelihood projects. Teams here work side-by-side with military forces and Local Government Units to bring peace and prosperity to conflict-affected areas in Southern Mindanao.

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