The United States Naval Ship (USNS) Mercy hospital ship arrived in Bougainville late last week, and the Pacific Partnership 2015 opening ceremony was held today, Monday, June 29th in Arawa, Bougainville. The USNS Mercy will be in Arawa until July 3 when it hoists anchor en route to Rabaul, in East New Britain Province. Among the many dignitaries attending the mission’s opening ceremony were Bougainville’s leaders, Papua New Guinean government officials, non-governmental organization representatives, civil organizations, and representatives of the United States, including Ambassador Walter North, the U.S. Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. The U.S.-led Pacific Partnership mission includes personnel from Australia, New Zealand, Timor-Leste, Philippines, and Japan.
Ambassador North emphasized the close cooperation and partnership that the United States and Papua New Guinea have, as exemplified by combined missions like Pacific Partnership. During his opening ceremony remarks, the Ambassador said, “Today marks a proud day in the friendship and partnership between Papua New Guinea and the United States. I’m very pleased that the USNS Mercy arrived at a time of peace, to provide vital health care to hundreds of people here in Bougainville. The Mercy has visited Papua New Guinea several times over the course of the last few years. USNS Mercy has come to know that the people of Papua New Guinea are among the friendliest people in the world. We welcome you and hope your visit will inspire the Mercy’s crew just as your medical care, community outreach, and humanitarian assistance inspire the people of Bougainville.”
While in Bougainville, Pacific Partnership teams will conduct dental and surgical operations, hold health and anti-gender-based violence exercises as well as host workshops that focus on women, peace and security. The Pacific Partnership teams will also conduct veterinary care and refurbish two local schools.
Pacific Partnership was founded to deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster resilience to Pacific nations following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The global response to the 2004 tsunami and the widespread goodwill and cooperation that resulted formed the genesis of Pacific Partnership’s mission to proactively build disaster response capacity. Besides providing medical and humanitarian assistance, Pacific Partnership’s overarching goal is to improve the effectiveness of the region's military forces, governments, and humanitarian organizations during disaster relief operations.