16 March 2023
Australian Army CH-47 Chinook helicopters, embarked on HMAS Canberra, are supporting the Vanuatu Ministry of Health with delivering vital medical supplies to Vanuatu’s southern Tafea Province.
The supplies – which include medicines, children’s nutrition, medical kits and fridges to store temperature-sensitive materials such as vaccines – were moved to Canberra by the ship’s landing craft in Port Vila.
The first phase of the logistics operation will involve moving food, shelter and medication to the Tafea Island group, including the main Tanna Island.
This will be followed by the movements of tents and other remaining items in phase two.
Greg Willie, co-leader of logistics and procurement under the National Health Emergency Operation Committee, is working with Defence personnel on Canberra to oversee their distribution to the southern province.
He said Canberra and its embarked helicopters were able to help out when other transport options were unavailable.
“The supplies were originally going to be transported by air, but the available plane could not handle the weight and some sea-going vessels are not available because of damage from the cyclones,” Mr Willie said.
“So, the National Disaster Management Office arranged the movement with DFAT and Defence officials.
“This is an emergency, and we need the supplies as soon as possible, so it was very fortunate that the ADF option was available to us.”
Navy nursing officer Lieutenant Donna Miller is liaising with the Ministry of Health team to ensure the medical supplies are logged before being transported to Lenakel Hospital on Tanna Island.
“There is a medical team of 12 from the Ministry of Health already in Tanna, so we will work with them to get the supplies to the hospital,” Lieutenant Miller said.
“Many of the health centres in other parts of the island suffered damage from the two cyclones, so the central hospital in Lenakel is the immediate destination, from where it will be transported locally to remote areas.”
As well as the medical supplies, Army engineers from the 6th Engineer Support Regiment and Vanuatu Mobile Force personnel are working on Tanna and Futuna islands to repair damage to hospitals in the wake of Tropical Cyclones Judy and Kevin.
Canberra arrived in Port Vila on March 9 and has been conducting a range of tasks prioritised by the country’s National Disaster Management Office.