Friday 11 February 2022

Hospital Diplomacy: Mapping U.S. Field Hospital Donations To Africa To Fight COVID-19

By Farooq Bhai in collaboration with Stijn Mitzer
The coronavirus pandemic (COVID) has engulfed the nations of the world. Globally, COVID has caused approximately 7 million deaths, a number that is likely even higher due to limited testing and problems in the attribution of the cause of death. COVID also gave rise to a pandemic power play between world powers that sought to aid other countries in their fight against the pandemic. In Africa, the great power competition occured between China and the United States, both of which supplied large quantities of aid to the continent. A major part of that aid consisted of mobile field hospitals, which gave African nations the capability to rapidly deploy state-of-the-art hospitals to the worst-hit areas.
In 2020, the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) launched an initiative to fight COVID in Africa by donating field hospitals on such a scale that China was unlikely to be able to match. The military grade field hospitals fitted with negative pressure rooms and ranging in capacity from 30 to 35 and 40 beds were donated normally one per country, with some countries receiving two. A total of fifteen African countries including Algeria in northern Africa to South Africa in southern tip of the African continent would go on to receive field hospitals as part of the U.S. initiative. 
This wasn't the first time the U.S. had been donating field hospitals to Africa on such a large scale, as in the past Rwanda, Senegal, Ghana and Uganda were among several countries that initially received field hospitals under the U.S. African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership (APRRP) in 2019. This programme sought to equip African states with improved medical capabilities to better deal with disasters should the need arise. The hospitals received under the 2019 programme would later also be deployed to combat COVID along with the newly-donated field hospitals received by these same countries in 2020 and 2021.

South Africa was among the first countries to receive a field hospital from the United States. This hospital with a total capacity of 40 beds was then deployed next to a general hospital in Mahikeng, one of the worst-hit cities in South Africa. 

Angola received a 40-bed field hospital which it deployed to the coastal town of Soyo. 

Burkina Faso received a 40-bed field hospital which it deployed to next to the Monuments des Martyrs in the capital Ouagadougou.

Djibouti also received a 40-bed field hospital which it deployed near the Ministry of Health in the capital Djibouti City. 

Ghana received a 30-bed field hospital which it deployed to a soccer stadium in the capital Accra. 

Niger received a 40-bed field hospital which it deployed to the Camp 3eme military base in the capital Niamey.  

Nigeria also received a 40-bed field hospital which it deployed next to a general hospital in the capital Abuja.

Tunisia received two 30-bed field hospitals, one of which was deployed next to a general hospital in the capital Tunis. 

Uganda received two field hospitals under the 2019 African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership (APRRP) programme. One of the two field hospitals was later deployed to the Ugandan Army HQ near the capital Kampala. 

Senegal deployed its field hospital received as part of the APRRP programme to the city of Touba.

The field hospital obtained by Rwanda under the 2019 APRRP programme was deployed to Kigali Garrison in the capital Kigali.

Algeria received its 35-bed field hospital in 2021. Based on satellite imagery, the hospital was deployed at a military depot in the city of Blida for less than a month before it was redeployed to a different location or perhaps placed in storage. Other countries that received field hospitals from the U.S. include Kenya, Ethiopia and Mauritania. Morocco is to receive a field hospital in early 2022. 

The U.S.' donation of field hospitals along with the necessary training capabilities and advisers proves that the country still retains a great amount of interest in the African continent, and has the tools to back this interest up with meaningful aid. This at a time when other countries with a historic interest in Africa (like France) remained mostly absent during the coronavirus pandemic.