Residents of Lae, Papua New Guinea Attend a Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief Pacific Partnership 2011 Conference 
By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman John Grandin, Pacific Partnership 2011 Public Affairs  
LAE, PAPUA NEW GUINEA – More than 50 residents from Lae, Papua New Guinea participated in a humanitarian assistance/disaster response (HA/DR) conference, sponsored by Pacific Partnership 2011, for the residents of Lae, May 26.

The conference was designed to network, discuss, and plan appropriate responses to HA/DR crises and provide some fundamentals for working with local assistance providers. Residents also had an opportunity to hear from local governmental officials regarding the state of current disaster response plans.

“The people of Papua New Guinea benefit from the HA/DR conference by becoming more informed and aware of the international humanitarian response community and what to expect from responding organizations and partner nation militaries,” said Cmdr. Joyce Blanchard, the civil military coordinator and humanitarian plans officer for Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet. “By providing this baseline knowledge, they’re able to better prepare for the responders that would come in at the event of a disaster.”

The conference allowed locals to learn what they can do in the event of an emergency and gave them an awareness of the logistical requirements of an HA/DR mission. It also provided the Pacific Partnership team an opportunity to learn from the Papua New Guineans about how to best approach the local population in an HA/DR environment.

“We develop a greater ability to respond to natural and manmade disasters when we prepare and work together,” said Navy Capt. Jesse A. Wilson Jr., Pacific Partnership 2011 mission commander and Commander, Destroyer Squadron 23. “By approaching this work as equals and partners, we can more effectively determine how we will fit into the host nation’s overall plan.”

Previous accounts of U.S. HA/DR efforts were presented during the conference, showing outcomes of different disasters and demonstrating the different ways the U.S. and partner nations provide humanitarian assistance to nations like Papua New Guinea.
Since the tsunami in 2004, the U.S. Navy has developed an even greater awareness of the importance of HA/DR missions. This sentiment is shared by Papua New Guineans as well, highlighted by the number of local participants from many different areas of expertise, both in and out of government.
“I really enjoyed the conference,” said Charlie Masangae, a project officer with the Marobe Disaster Center. “I have been doing some of the things the Australians and Americans talked about, but today I have learned there are a lot of things involved with disaster response. It is good having the U.S. and Australia at this conference because they have responded to a lot of disasters, and that knowledge is very valuable.”
Pacific Partnership 2011 conducted similar conferences in Tonga and Vanuatu and will sponsor more in Timor-Leste and the Federated States of Micronesia.
During the past five years, Pacific Partnership has provided medical, dental, educational, and preventive medicine services to more than 220,500 people and completed more than 160 engineering projects in 16 countries.

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