Friday, August 31, 2007

Rural clinic gets early start

By Sgt. Ben Brody

BAGHDAD – For more than two years, Zaidon Village, 15 miles south of Baghdad, was an al-Qaeda stronghold.
An anarchic atmosphere and constant bombings left Zaidon with little electricity, clean water or medical facilities.
In the last six months, Sunni tribes working with U.S. troops have pushed out the insurgents and brought a new peace to the area.
Farmers’ tractors still weave carefully through side streets that are more bomb crater than roadway, but the Zaidon Market is bustling on a Saturday morning and nearby a new clinic is under construction.
In the empty clinic building, medics from 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, out of Fort Drum, N.Y., treated about 250 Zaidon residents for minor ailments Aug. 25.
“We treat a lot of cases of worms, infections, some typhoid fever, the usual consequences of poor cleanliness and poor diet,” said Spc. Marek Marczynski, a medic with 1-89 Cav. Regt.
Marczynski and Pvt. Travis Bellew, with the aid of an interpreter, saw about 130 people with complaints ranging from headaches to cerebral palsy.
“A lot of the people just want to get some free meds to have on hand,” said Marczynski, from Syracuse, N.Y. “At the other end of the spectrum are people we’re just not equipped to treat, like the guy with shrapnel in his leg from the Iran-Iraq War.”
While the building is still under construction, regular medical operations are scheduled to begin in the next two to three months, said 2nd Lt. Max Smith, 1-89 Cav. Regt. medical officer.
“Sheiks and local leaders came up with the idea for this project, and the Army bought a bunch of medical supplies to get them started,” said Smith, from Grand Haven, Mich. “After that, the Ministry of Health in Baghdad will keep them supplied.”
Medical professionals are often in short supply in rural Iraq, but Zaidon is fortunate enough to have a married couple who are both doctors. They have agreed to run the clinic when it is complete, Smith said.
Present at the clinic was a small team of residents who played a large role in driving al-Qaeda from the area earlier this year. They assisted in providing security at the event..
“The tribes in this area were revolted by al-Qaeda beheading local people and imposing Sharia law, and they rose up,” said Capt. Ryan Liebhaber, commander, Troop A, 1-89 Cav. Regt. “There is very little Iraqi army or police presence here. In the instances when the local security has come into conflict with the Iraqi army, we have worked with both sides to de-escalate the situation.”
Liebhaber, from Dayton, Ohio, said people are eager to see projects aimed at rejuvenating Zaidon, which has been neglected for decades. With the local tribes heavily invested in their own security, the projects are less likely to fall victim to sabotage.
“They are definitely excited about all the attention they’re getting,” Liebhaber said.

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