SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia - Representatives of Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery joined efforts with Pacific Partnership 2010 during the mission’s first visit to Cambodia.

The 12-day engagement, which brought together veterinarians from Cambodia, non- governmental organizations, and the U.S. Army, was filled with opportunities to share knowledge and best practices through subject matter expert exchanges.

One of the most significant accomplishments of Pacific Partnership 2010’s veterinary civic action programs (VETCAPs) was the team’s ability to combine the various strengths of education, experience, and perspectives to improve the animal and public health outreach of the ministry, said Capt. (Dr.) Eric Storey, a veterinarian with the U.S. Army Reserve’s 994th Medical Detachment, based out of Round Rock, Texas.

“We found Cambodia to be extremely receptive to any effort to improve public health through improving animal health,” said Storey. “The floodgates of communication have been opened and we anticipate further cooperation with officials to enhance the impact and reach of the current disease prevention programs.”

During the joint engagement, one primary focus was on raising the awareness of the value of canine and feline vaccination in the prevention of rabies in the people of Cambodia. Another focus was in helping ensure the well-being of rural communities by vaccinating animals used for agricultural purposes.

According to Louise Castelanelli, a veterinarian from Vets Without Borders, the importance of ensuring the health of animals used for agriculture is paramount in Cambodia.

“While we vaccinated dogs for rabies, our primary focus was on vaccinating water buffalo from Hemorrhagic Septicemia, said Castelanelli. “The disease is endemic in Southeast Asia with outbreaks typically occurring at the start of the rainy season.”

While Hemorrhagic Septicemia (a blood-borne bacterial disease that ultimately leads to the animal’s demise) doesn’t affect humans, it can have an economic impact on families and communities who depend on water buffalos to harvest rice crops, a major source of food and income for many.

Through the engagement, veterinarians like Storey and Castelanelli were able to learn more about key national Cambodian programs designed to prevent Hemorrhagic Septicemia and expand their awareness on how large-scale national programs can have an impact on rural farming communities.

“I am confident that the bonds we have established here will facilitate a long-term working relationship where all parties can contribute to development of protocols for control of disease outbreaks locally and globally, as well as providing a framework for responding to natural disasters,” said Castelanelli.

Pacific Partnership 2010 is the fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors aimed at strengthening regional partnerships among U.S. government organizations, host nations, partner nations, and international humanitarian and relief organizations.