21 August 2012
Major Martin James, oral surgeon, performs a dental procedure. Private Sarah Hughes assists.
Approximately 2,700 Samoans have benefited from a range of healthcare services delivered by the NZ Defence Force as part of Exercise Tropic Twilight, a three-week humanitarian aid and disaster relief exercise.
The 100-strong specialist healthcare contingent conducted a total of 61 minor surgeries, 153 dental treatments, 834 primary health care checks, 845 childhood vaccinations, and 604 schoolchildren were briefed on the importance of oral hygiene.
Tropic Twilight which came to a close last week, was conducted in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade which funded the provision of the medical supplies through the NZ Aid Programme
The 100-strong contingent included doctors, anaesthetists, nurses and a range of other medical staff, as well as dentists, environmental health and logistics personnel. Regular and Reserve Force healthcare specialists worked alongside a number of civilian medical specialists.
The contingent accomplished much more than what they set out to achieve, says Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Twiss, 2 Health Support Battalion.
"It was a big challenge to project into another country, set up and run a Forward Surgical Team out of tented accommodation, and deliver a range of healthcare services in a short timeframe - but that is exactly the scenario in a real disaster situation.
"The contingent certainly proved it can deliver. The Forward Surgical Team delivered way above the original target of 40 surgeries, clearly demonstrating its capability. While these operations were minor procedures, they made a significant difference to the lives of the patients and their families.
"Our medical outreach teams similarly made a significant contribution, relieving a sizeable burden on local health services in Samoa."
A small team of Army engineers carried out a number of minor tasks including fixed the plumbing at a primary school and building a kitchen and a shower block for the community hall at Poutasi village, one of the areas badly damaged by the tsunami in 2009. Air Force Information Technology specialists cleaned nine virus-infected laptop computers used by Paul VI College students, and Defence Force personnel handed out rugby balls and uniforms donated by the New Zealand Rugby Union and the Auckland Blues to primary and secondary schools.
"On behalf of the contingent, I would like to thank the Samoan government and the Samoan people, particularly the teachers and students of Paul VI College, for their hospitality," adds LTCOL Twiss. "The reception from the Samoan public was very positive and contributed in no small measure to the success of our mission."
A small team from the Australian Defence Force, French Armed Forces New Caledonia (FANC), and the United States worked alongside the Kiwis as part of the exercise and made a key contribution.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force played a supporting role, transporting the 100-strong contingent and about 24 tonnes of equipment and supplies to Samoa. HMNZS OTAGO also assisted with setting up the camp facility.
"The NZ Defence Force is committed to helping our Pacific partners to prepare and respond to natural disasters. Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief exercises are essential for the Defence Force, enhancing co-operation and building relationships with our partners.
"Participation in these exercises is essential for New Zealand to remain capable and poised to support whole-of-government disaster response operations, such as the 2009 Samoa Tsunami and the Christchurch earthquake," adds LTCOL Twiss.
For further information contact Senior Media Advisor, Kirsty Taylor-Doig on 021 806 926.