Military medics from Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan are from this Friday providing free medical services in four hospitals in Eastern Province until July 3.
The four contingents, made of 30 medical experts each, are part of East African Community (EAC) Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC).
The doctors are specialised in skin diseases (dermatology), eye and vision care (ophthalmology), ear, nose, throat (otolaryngology), gynaecology, general surgery, paediatrics (medical care of infants, children, and adolescents) and orthopaedics (dealing with the correction of deformities of bones or muscles).
The Kenyan contingent is deployed at Rwamagana Provincial Hospital in Rwamagana District, while at Gahini Hospital in Kayonza District is the Tanzanian group.
The South Sudanese delegation is at Nyagatare District Hospital and the Ugandan contingent of specialists at Nyamata Hospital in Bugesera District.
At each site, the teams are working alongside their Rwandan military counterparts.
Col. Dr Jean Chrysostome Kagimbana, Commandant of Rwanda Military Hospital (RMH), said that at least 500 patients at each site will benefit from the week-long exercise.
According to Kagimbana, the cooperation means unity.
“When people are united, they are able to have the same understanding and help each other.”
“In most cases, some people have more experience than others in a certain speciality so they can share it,” he noted.
He said that as the RMH cannot treat such a big number of patients just in one week, joining efforts is significant to the people they serve.
Kagimbana added that one of the responsibilities of an army officer is promoting the development of their country, “including medial services too; a soldier is not there just for fighting. Without health, development is impossible”.
Dr Col Justine Muinde, Head of the Kenyan Contingent, said that they participate “because of the brotherhood in our cooperation so that we share our experiences; we help our brothers where we can, and also learn from them.”
“We are happy to be here and we have not faced any challenges, and we do not foresee any, because this is an exercise which we have done together, we know each other; actually most of us have even trained together,” he added.
According to Muinde, it is a wonderful time to unite and serve the people, using their specialities.
“We as Kenya Defence Force do not have to benefit as such, but we can benefit our partners and our friends, and benefit by the exchange of ideas and knowledge,” he pointed out.
The most important benefit, Muinde continued, “is to serve the community in East Africa; that is our joy, that is our calling, and we look forward to doing that every other time.”
Kagimbana announced that this cooperation involving military doctors in community health was introduced following the Rwanda Defence Force Citizen Outreach Programme, formerly known as Army Week, a drive that has been performed annually since 2009.
This is the second time the CIMIC is operating. Last year the contingents were in Uganda.