LUGANVILLE, Vanuatu -- The United States and Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF) along with several non-governmental organizations conducted subject-matter expert (SME) exchanges with their Ni-Vanuatu civilian counterparts in preparation for Pacific Angel (PAC ANGEL) 18-3, July 10-21, 2018.
The U.S.-Vanuatu SME exchange took place at a local governmental facility in Luganville and covered a variety of medical and disaster response specialties, including control and prevention of vector-borne diseases and community disaster response.
“We’ve exchanged ideas and techniques for identifying local carriers of vector-borne diseases, such as mosquitoes, and emphasized the importance of good vector surveillance programs to decrease the threat of diseases here,” said U.S. Army Capt. Keith Marshall Jr., chief of bio surveillance and medical entomology with Public Health Command Pacific at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. “This exchange is important in Vanuatu because vector-borne diseases are still prevalent. In recent years, Vanuatu increased the focus on reducing the risk of diseases, such as Malaria.”
Local participants also expressed the importance of the exchange for the people living in the Vanuatu islands and emphasized the positive impact the event could provide for years to come.
“Learning more about vector-borne disease control and methods to control the mosquitoes is essential, so that doctors can identify the symptoms for these serious diseases in the islands,” Vanuatu Mobile Force Cpl. Allan Kalsal, lead medical planner for PAC ANGEL 18-3, explained. “I, myself caught Malaria years ago and I understand even more the importance of preventing these diseases. I’m thankful for my participation in this PAC ANGEL, so that we can help our future generations to rid the occurrence of these diseases in coming years.”
Additionally, the SME exchanges consisted of community disaster response preparedness and provided an opportunity to exercise various disaster response activities.
“In Vanuatu, they are subject to many kinds of disasters, primarily from natural causes, including volcanoes, earthquakes, cyclones, typhoons, tsunamis and the risk of infectious disease outbreaks,” U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Catherine Berjohn, division head of infectious diseases from the Naval Medical Center, San Diego said. “The course builds upon a variety of disaster management aspects, like evacuation and sheltering of displaced persons, food distribution, water, sanitation and care of children.”
A portion of the exchange participants traveled from neighboring Vanuatu islands to attend the workshop, which focused on the planning necessary to prepare for a disaster.
“At least every couple of years [Vanuatu] experiences a tropical storm or event that can lead to a natural disaster,” Berjohn explained. “The course is a good tool to consider how to execute the national [disaster response] plan because it’s one thing to have a plan, but until you actually sit down and try to map it out and see how all the pieces of the puzzle connect, it may not be evident.”
PACANGEL 18-3 continues through July 21 with multilateral international Indo-Pacific participants working together to assist the local community and improve regional partner capabilities. PAC ANGELs have built positive relations through engagement such as these for the last decade in multiple countries throughout the Indo-Pacific region.