USAFE-AFAFRICA Global Health Engagement Team conducts mission in Malawi

  • Published
  • By USAFE-AFAFRICA Command Surgeon Office

This month a Global Health Engagements Team from the USAFE-AFAFRICA Command Surgeon’s office traveled to Lilongwe, Malawi, Africa to perform a baseline assessment of the Malawian Defence Force’s mental health program.

This inaugural event included a knowledge exchange between subject matter experts from the U-A Surgeon’s office and 14 mental health providers, nurses, and technicians who serve as active duty members of the Malawian Defence Force.

Topics included suicide screening, deployment preparation, and posttraumatic stress. According to the mission commander, Maj Francis Ugoh, International Health Specialist, “the Malawian Defence Force mental health team was very welcoming and really appreciated our intention to build a partnership with them.” The U-A team was greeted by Brigadier General Kingsley Magomero who explained that the visit was timely since the Defence Force had just stood up its first post-deployment restoration program to help soldiers returning from deployment as they transition to everyday life.

According to 2Lt Rabson Isaah, a Malawian Mental Health Clinical Officer who participated in the knowledge exchange, “we thank the US Embassy for sending military mental health specialists to interact with us. This week we shared experiences of combat and peace time and learned how to best retain mental health soldiers on the battlefield. During our discussions, we identified some gaps in our mental health program, and we look forward to future interaction and training with the US team.”

The U-A team was thoroughly impressed with the level of program development, motivation, and ownership shown by the mental health staff during this first-ever event. As Lt Col Joel Foster, Global Health Engagements Branch Chief and subject matter expert remarked, “this event is truly monumental because we are the first country to assist the Malawian mental health team to bolster their care for warfighters returning from deployments to the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Pending future funding, the U-A team hopes to work with the Malawian Defence Force to build a multi-phase program to advance their mental health policies, procedures, and training, establishing themselves as a regional model for the care of soldiers and their families.