By Air Force Senior Airman Ashton Goodman Provincial Reconstruction Team Panjshir Public Affairs Office BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan
(May 13, 2009) â€“ As soon as the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team arrived in the Panjshir Valley in November 2008, they noticed a need for a more sanitary way of disposing of contaminated needles.
â€œWe saw that they were using cardboard boxes and buckets for [sharps] disposal. We also observed needles laying all over the ground,â€ said Air Force Tech. Sgt. James Bailey, a PRT medic from Tyndall Air Force Base, FL.
To solve this problem, Bailey and Air Force Tech. Sgt. Alfred Greene, a medic deployed from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., met with the Panjshir Director of Public Health (DoPH) to find some ways to safely dispose of needles.
After much brainstorming, they decided that using old ammunition cans was a fast and easy way that allowed medical facilities to transport used needles to a disposal area.
Ammunition cans are reusable and inexpensive. After they are spray-painted white with the word â€œSHARPSâ€ stenciled in Dari, a clasp is placed on the lid to prevent spillage. A hole is then drilled in the top allowing needles to be safely dropped inside.
â€œSo far, over the past few months, 20 clinics have benefited from our sharps containers, to include 17 DoPH clinics, two non-ER nongovernmental organization clinics, and five maternal child health clinics,â€ explained Bailey.
The clinics are provided with two cans each, one for clinic use while the other is being emptied at the disposal site.
Clinic personnel have readily accepted the program and were taught proper ways to clean the cans. Also, a placard is given to the health clinics to provide information regarding what goes into the containers and how to properly dispose of the waste in the valleyâ€™s only disposal pit.
â€œOur goal was to provide a safe way to dispose of sharps,â€ said Bailey, â€œHopefully this program will help eliminate disease and sickness spread by bio-hazardous waste. Overall, we feel itâ€™s already a success because it will ensure the safety of the medical workers and the people of Panjshir,â€ Bailey said.
During a visit to the Peshgor Clinic in Khenj District, Air Force Tech. Sgt. James Bailey, a Panjshir PRT medic, provides pharmacist Mohammad Yagub, right, and Ghulam Maiudin, a vaccinator, with containers to properly dispose of needles and other bio-hazardous materials. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Maj. Valerie Trump)