U.S. Africa Command donated vehicles and other equipment to Namibia this month, aiding the southern African country in its ongoing fight against the illicit animal poaching and smuggling trade.
The almost $600,000 donation was sent by the Defense Department’s Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster, and Civic Aid program directly to Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Tourism.
U.S. officials were joined during a Sept. 2 dedication ceremony at Daan Viljoen National Park by personnel from Blue Rhino Task Force, a Namibian interagency unit funded by the U.S. to combat poaching in select regions throughout southern Africa, Europe and Asia.
“Meeting with the Blue Rhino Task Force helped illuminate the wider role all of us have to protect natural resources for future generations,” Andrew Young, AFRICOM deputy commander of military engagement, said in a release. “While the command may provide assistance to the brave members of Namibia’s anti-poaching squad, each of us need to do our part to reduce the demand globally that is responsible for endangering these beautiful creatures.”
Poaching and animal smuggling, which comprise the fourth-largest illicit trade in southern Africa, have long been thorns in the sides of those enforcing regional security. The trade is widely believed to be linked with the funding of regional extremist groups and the weakening of sovereign borders.
As part of the Sept. 2 event, the delegation also met with outreach workers at the Katutura Village in Windhoek, where HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment assistance is distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The U.S. is the largest bilateral donor of Namibia’s health care sector.
“We had a very productive meeting,” Barbara Hughes, the USAID senior development advisor to AFRICOM, said in the release. “Namibia is rightly proud of their enormous progress towards reaching HIV/AIDS epidemic control and we are proud that the U.S. government’s PEPFAR played a part in this success.”
The AFRICOM delegation concluded their trip with a visit to the Lewis B. Puller-class expeditionary sea base Hershel “Woody” Williams during its most recent port call, one that marked the ship’s second visit to Namibia within a year.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran and a master's candidate at New York University's Business & Economic Reporting program.