RUTBAH, Iraq --
Shepherds crowded around the veterinary clinic here July 1 to receive the medications their flocks desperately needed.
An impromptu class was given by the local veterinarian on how to administer the various vaccines and multivitamin shots.
“This place used to be one of the main locations known for raising sheep,” said 2nd Lt. Dan J. Alldridge, 24, from Bloomington, Ill., who is the team leader for Detachment 1, Civil Affairs Team 4, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5.
The economy of Rutbah is largely dependent on agriculture. Due to a recent drought and the restructuring of the local government, shepherds have suffered and have received little aid.
“We have seen a fifty percent drop in the sheep population out here due to sickness and malnutrition,” said Alldridge. “The drought has wiped out many of the wheat fields the farmers use to feed their flocks, and they have in some cases had to resort to selling off some of their sheep so they can afford to buy food for the rest of them.”
Marines with CA Team 4 put together a project that would provide the shepherds and their flocks with medical supplies to help alleviate some of the pressure brought on by the drought.
“We provided the local veterinary clinic with two types of vaccines and a multivitamin shot, plus the tools to equip the farmers to administer the medication,” said Staff Sgt. Richard R. White, 30, from Las Vegas, who is the team chief for CA Team 4. “We entrusted the supplies to Dr. Rashad Ayish Mohammed, who is the local veterinarian, and he was responsible for distributing the supplies among the people.”
Rashad is currently the only veterinarian in the city of Rutbah. He and his assistant keep track of how many supplies each shepherd gets according to the size of his flock.
“This is a good program, and we have been able to help many of the farmers with this medicine, but we need more,” said Rashad through an interpreter.
While the Marines with CA Team 4 have told the farmers they can submit a request for more supplies, they have encouraged them to also petition their local government.
“We want them to know we will help them while we can, but we are not going to be here forever, so we try to emphasize that they need to rely on the government of Rutbah,” said White.
With the assistance of CA Team 4, hopefully the sheep population will increase and Rutbah will once again have a thriving sheep business.