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U.S. Navy, Partners Provide Humanitarian Aid in Southeast Asia

18 October 2007

Pacific Partnership 2007 also directs joint aid programs to Oceana region

Washington -- A partnership involving personnel from governments and nongovernmental groups from several nations bordering the Pacific Ocean came together for four months in early 2007 to provide medical, dental, construction and humanitarian assistance programs in the Philippines, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Marshall Islands.

"It’s a good mix of immediate medical activities, preventative medicine and long-term public health …. The combination of them I think represents a good way to address the needs of the area," Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter said during a ceremony in Gizo, Solomon Islands, marking the conclusion of the effort.

The Pacific Partnership 2007 team involved sailors from the U.S. Naval vessel Peleliu, U.S. military medical staff members, personnel from the U.S. Public Health Service, and a U.S. Navy construction battalion. The team included a general surgeon, operating room technicians, intensive care nurses, a respiratory therapist, an X-ray technician, lab technicians and hospital corpsmen.

It also included staff members and volunteers from the Aloha Medical Mission in Hawaii, Project Hope, and the University of California at San Diego Pre-Dental Society. Regional partners who participated, some providing medical personnel, included Australia, Canada, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Vietnam and New Zealand.

"The United States is a Pacific nation, and as such, we share many interests, values and beliefs with our Pacific neighbors," Admiral Robert Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said at the start of the mission.

The team repaired schools, refurbished hospitals, provided medical and dental care, offered health care information and donated supplies and equipment. It directly and indirectly helped approximately 100,000 people.

Such coordinated efforts support important humanitarian projects while helping strengthen the relationships on which security and stability in the region depend.

The efforts also built on relationships forged in recent years following the Indian Ocean tsunami and earthquake relief missions in the region in 2006. The project was based aboard the Peleliu, which was equipped with special medical equipment for the mission. The Peleliu's home port is San Diego.

Speaking to the crew near the end of its mission, Willard said, "When you think about a medical case where these docs treat a little boy or girl, or a mom or a dad, it’s not just the individual that’s getting the attention …. You’re talking about whole families who are altered …. It’s awesome."

The first port of call was the Philippines. Working with nongovernmental organizations and in local medical care professionals, the team assisted Filipino officials in renovating a typhoon-evacuation center in Guinobatan, including installing toilets, and sinks, new electrical wiring, painting and completely rehabilitating the building’s roof.

Another project was clearing thousands of tons of dirt and debris from a portion of the Tagas River. Meanwhile, each day, patients were welcomed aboard the ship where a variety of medical procedures were provided. This effort was supported by a team of graduate nursing students from Aquinas University in Legaspi City, Phillipines.

In Vietnam, the Pacific Partnership team welcomed three Vietnamese physicians aboard. The Vietnamese government’s willingness to offer three of its own physicians to the Pacific Partnership team is "a big step forward," according to Amir Harari, the Peleliu’s senior medical officer. The medical and dental professionals saw more than 3,500 patients in the Dan Nang region.

Navy Seabees, along with a team of engineers from India completed a number of projects, including a weeklong playground construction project at Da Nang’s Hoi Mai Orphanage where they were joined by local volunteers and four French students who volunteer at the orphanage. The new playground provides outdoor recreation for the facility’s 46 children.

The team also stopped at Modilon General Hospital in Madang, Papua New Guinea. More than 200 patients were screened for ophthalmologic surgeries to be performed aboard USS Peleliu, according to Shari Jones, one of Pacific Partnership’s doctors. "I think what we are doing here is good for our relationship between the U.S. and Papua New Guinea." Jones said.

Along with assisting the medical doctors, volunteers from the nongovernmental organization Project Hope gave Modilon medical staff training on tsunami and hurricane emergency procedures.

The Papua New Guinea village of Josephstaal is more than 80 kilometers from the coastline with no roads. Travel to the nearest provincial capital, Madang, is "dangerous," said Hezron Wangi of the Papua New Guinea Defense Force. "This village is so remote that the people just go without medical care."

Pacific Partnership members remodeled three existing medical clinics, drilled a well and installed a water-collection system for the village of 9,000 people. "This clinic completion will make it easier for the people of Josephstaal to receive medical care" Wangi said.

In the Solomon Islands, people received such treatments as tooth extractions, optometry checks, pediatric checkups and immunizations.

Volunteers also distributed flyers explaining preventative health measures and dental hygiene. Pacific Partnership efforts were featured frequently in media throughout Asia including TV, radio and newspapers.

More information about Pacific Partnership 2007 is available on the USS Peleliu Web site.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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