Timorese islanders receive 'house call'

  • Published
  • By TSgt Cohen Young
  • Defense Media Activity-Hawaii
Four U.S. Air Force and three Royal Australian Regiment medical personnel provided basic family care support to 283 people in the tiny fishing village of Bikeli, Atauro in Timor Leste, July 22, in support of Operation Pacific Angel 09. The small group was flown to the island by the International Stablization Force on two Royal Australian Regiment helicopters. 

Atauro island primarily functions as a fishing village where people live extreme rural conditions. There is no running water and locals must fetch their pail of water at the well every morning, children run around the area with no shoes, and rice is flown in from non-governmental agencies for the local islanders to eat. 

In addition to primary care practices, the villagers received information on proper hygiene, clean water, sanitation methods, and malaria prevention. 

"We are here to assist the Ministry of Health of Timor with a clinical outreach event and we are focused on maternal education for their future as well as new mothers," said Lt. Col. Phillip Goff, chief of bioenvironmental engineering at Hurlburt Field, Fla. "We are essentially teaching them to fish. We want them to know how to fish instead of us just giving them fish."

The clinic was part of Operation Pacific Angel that occurred in Dili, Timor Leste , and Indonesia, which ended July 23 for the Dili team. After a successful week of primary and optometry care, a total of 4,093 Timorese were assisted during the seven-day operation. 

"We came here to treat people," said Lena Vitalina, an East Timorese nurse practitioner. "It was good working with the Americans and Australians as we helped my people and I hope this can happen again next year." 

The Royal Australian Regiment is part of the International Stabilization Force for Operation Astute, to restore peace and stability to East Timor following a request from the government of East Timor. 

 "Today has been good as we've helped a lot of patients," said Royal Australian Regiment medic Corporal Adam Glenn Smith. "It's been great working with the Americans," Corporal Smith added. "We have many similarities [by wanting to help those in need]." 

Pacific Angel is a Pacific Air Forces humanitarian assistance operation in the Asia-Pacific region led by 13th Air Force and aimed at improving military civic cooperation between the United States, Indonesia and Timor Leste. 

"When we walk away, we will know that we made a long lasting impact on generations to come," said Colonel Goff.