In Afghanistan, everything happens on a community level,” says Camille Effler, a veterinarian and U.S. Army officer who served in Afghanistan as a cultural support team officer in charge. “The people I met were very hospitable, and you’re welcomed initially, but then you have to work on building their trust.”
In a region where strong community ties are often key to survival,
Effler established relationships with village elders and leaders. These efforts allowed her to execute projects that focused on economic development, education, health and agriculture. The role was fitting for Effler, who knew when she began veterinary school that she wanted to work in public health.
“My interest lies in sustainable agriculture and food insecurity,” she says. “People have to be fed, and they have to be fed safe food produced in the most sustainable way possible.”
While in veterinary school on an Army scholarship, she worked in the Veterinary Corps, focusing on animal medicine and public health. In 2012, Effler was chosen to join the Army’s Cultural Support Team program in Afghanistan.
Her work there brought her into contact with local and international aid groups as well as government and nongovernmental organizations. The experience lent her a new perspective on aid work.
“So much money is being spent in these places with very little understanding of the long-term benefits,” she says. “People come in and do projects, then leave, and there’s often no follow up; the lives of locals don’t change.”
Effler is interested in measuring the efficacy of humanitarian efforts. Her focus: how food insecurity issues play into conflict and post-conflict environments.
“I’d like to establish metrics to decide what’s working and what’s not, while also building better relationships between military groups, NGOs and other government organizations that work in conflict and post-conflict environments,” she says.
Veterinary Public Health Officer, U.S. Army