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Pacific Partnership: 12 June    

One of the Pacific Partnership dental personnel checking a child's teeth, in Samoa
The NZDF contingent are briefed for Pacific Partnership aboard USS PEARL HARBOR 

PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP is a large, multi-national humanitarian and disaster preparedness exercise currently underway in the South Pacific region. The activity involves military personnel from the US, NZ, Australia, France, Canada, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore along with non-governmental organizations, academic and embassy support. This year NZ is to be the lead nation status during (forthcoming) the Kiribati and Solomon Islands phase.

 

Currently the operation is centred on USS PEARL HARBOR which is now in Tonga. But Pacific Partnership began on 01 June in Samoa, and several RNZAF personnel are on board, as part of the NZDF contingent.

 

Pacific Partnership 2013 has been a rewarding experience for me. I am on this mission as an oral health educator and a dental assistant. Within our health sector there were six multinational dental teams; I was lucky enough to be teamed with a couple of Aussies which worked well; we all worked hard to get the job done!

 

The main focus for the dental teams was to provide prevention, oral health education and relief of pain. We weren’t equipped to offer restorative treatment (fillings).  Nevertheless, we were well received by the locals; people would wait for hours to have heavily decayed and broken teeth extracted. Most have lived with dental pain and infection for many years. 

 

The highlight of our time in Samoa was working at the Little Sisters of the Poor rest home in Samoa.  The age of the residents varied from 70-106 years.  The waiting room was filled with patients in wheel chairs.  Beautiful and humble people who thought we were sent from heaven to relieve them of pain.  What a great feeling it was knowing that we improved their quality of life and also educated the younger generation towards better oral health for the future.

 

A team of optometrists also worked at various sites and villages and it was great to see them providing sunglasses and reading glasses to those in need.

Living on board the USS Pearl Harbor has been interesting.  The US Navy personnel have hosted us well, although I still haven’t got my head around having donuts and cheese for breakfast!  In my compartment there were 34 females and the room next door had the same. As you can imagine the four showers and eight hand basins allocated to us were in demand in the mornings—some girls were waking at 0430 to don their make up!

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