Africa

British Troops In Malawi: Delivering Life-Saving Medical Training

Forces News joined British troops delivering medical training to the Malawi Defence Force ahead of a UN deployment.

British military personnel have been providing the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) with what could be life-saving training.

A course, coordinated by the British Peace Support Team (Africa), was delivered to more than 100 troops ahead of a deployment to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

While it is a UN Peacekeeping Mission, risk to life is high.

The MDF lost six personnel in 2018 after they came under attack from an Islamic group.

A further 850 personnel are set to be deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo in August on the UN's MONUSCO Mission.

Memories of what happened in 2018 are never far from soldiers' minds.

"We had those heroes [who] died in that situation, but they saved a lot of civilians' lives," Lieutenant Colonel Pethias Mdoka, Commanding Officer, Peace Support Operational Training says.

"One of our troops even saved a soldier from the DRC and because of that he is recognised widely.

"Even at the UN headquarters our name as the Malawi Defence Force is there."

Malawi forces attending training with British forces in November 2019 used on 050320 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
Malawi Defence Force troops attending medical training by British troops in November 2019.

The MDF says they saw a need for extra expertise and requested assistance from the British Peace Support Team.

Short-term training teams of British personnel were deployed and have delivered training packages to suit the MDF’s needs.

"This course that we run for these guys is the equivalent of the Army team medical course in the UK, where we take your normal soldier who has no medical background and get them to standard," Warrant Officer Class 2 Gordon Seal told Forces News.

"Because these guys have no medical training at all, we'll give them nice basic information to get them to a good level and then over the next three or four days we'll take them down through the Army Team Medic Course," he added.

Malawi troops singing in November 2019 used on 050320 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
A battalion of 850 Malawi service personnel will be deployed to the DRC as part of a UN mission.

Lieutenant Colonel Freddie Grounds oversees the training run by British troops in Malawi.

He has no doubt the programme works and says he has been told the 2018 death toll would have been much higher had the MDF not undertaken the course.

"When I spoke to the Commanding Officer in the aftermath of that operation, although they sadly lost six soldiers, he stated to me that the training they had received, in that instance from the Gurkha Rifles, saved his soldiers' lives," Col Grounds said.

He says the benefits for British troops, who are used to using top-rate equipment, are clear too.

"They are using rifle slings as tourniquets, they are using bits of clothing to act as first field dressings.

"Our soldiers are having to go right back to basics."

British and Malawi troops during medical training in November 2019 used on 050320 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
British and Malawi troops posing together at the end of the medical training in November 2019.

The main objective of the MONUSCO Mission is to bring stabilisation to the Democratic Republic of Congo and protect vulnerable civilians.

But with further attacks from terrorist groups and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) a risk, injuries could be similar to those seen in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The scenarios the British Troops present to students are as realistic as possible, teaching them to handle everything from catastrophic bleeds to potential spinal injuries in road traffic accidents.

But the MDF Battalion’s Commander says there are challenges.

"I don't have enough training equipment," Lieutenant Colonel Mdoka told Forces News.

"In the past, we could train on limited equipment... now, the way the protestors treat our troops in the DRC gives us an idea that we could improve."

The British team also wants to improve and make sure every course they offer prevents lives being lost. 

For that to happen, honest feedback is essential and the team have been using a new survey system to collect it.

Comments are submitted anonymously and the team hope it could eventually be rolled out around the world.