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SOUTHCOM International Health Specialists enhance impact of COVID-19 response donations through training, coordination

  • Published
  • By Kelley Schlitt
  • U.S. Air Force International Health Specialists
International Health Specialists are collaborating with the Pan-American Health Organization, a regional component of the World Health Organization, to better mobilize, operate and sustain COVID-19 pandemic response donations to partner nations.

Over the past year, the U.S. Southern Command has donated 30 field hospitals to 18 partner nations in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, and the combatant command has plans to deliver an additional 43 field hospitals to partner nations in the region. Each field hospital provides 40 beds and four ventilators.

"As International Health Specialists, we are working to ensure partner nations receive any training they may need to maintain and utilize the field hospitals so these donations make a sustainable impact on their ability to respond to the current pandemic and any future natural disasters they may face,” said Maj. Alexis Beauvais, USSOUTHCOM International Health Specialist.

To do this, the SOUTHCOM International Health Specialist team aims to incorporate the field hospitals into engagements, including large, multi-national exercises.

“We have been meeting virtually with the Pan-American Health Organization to support partner nations in attaining the organization’s Emergency Medical Team certification, a capability that enables them to better utilize the donated field hospitals,” said Maj. Noelle DeRuyter, SOUTHCOM International Health Specialist. “Once partner nations achieve this certification, National Guard state partners will assist in strengthening their medical capabilities and more importantly, enhance medical training through joint, multi-national military exercises.”

This collaboration extends beyond pandemic relief and supports SOUTHCOM’s strategy to better respond to natural disasters. In 2020, the region had to cope with an active, extended hurricane season with Hurricanes Eta and Iota making landfall in November of 2020. The field hospital donations and capability building increases partner nation resiliency in responding to natural disasters.

The International Health Specialist team’s broader goal is to establish a regional standard solution so partner nations can respond together rather than employ individual methods and approaches.

“A big part of our job is synchronizing, coordinating, and connecting the right people so they can do joint planning.” Beauvais said. “We want to empower our partners in the region to work together to address common challenges.”