Although the international task-forces in the Indian Ocean are focused on fighting piracy, they are also engaging in humanitarian aid missions as well. Recently, NATO joined up with medical staff from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy to help residents of Somalia.
Chinese and NATO counter-piracy forces in the Indian Ocean had previously discussed such a mission at meetings, and finally put the plan in action this past June. Chinese peronnel aboard the ITS San Marco, which is the flag ship for NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield, travelled to Qandala Somalia to provide medical aid to the residents. Qandala is an ancient port town located on the eastern end of the north shore of Somalia.
Less than a week after Chinese Admiral Yuan Yubai visited the ITS San Marco, several high-ranking medical officers came aboard the ship for the mission.
Rear Admiral Natale, commander of Operation Ocean Shield, spoke of the mission: “This could very well be the most important event of ITS SAN MARCO’s deployment… After several meetings at sea with the Chinese Navy, we have now demonstrated that NATO and China can cooperate in activities to enhance the security and stability of the region.”
The ITS San Marco already provided medical assistant itself in the fishing village of Xabo. Because piracy hurts everyday people of Somalia as well, it is important to show local residents of the country that the task-forces are not there just for intimidation and conflict.
Somalia has been ravaged by war for decades, leaving little infrastructure to handle the most basic humanitarian issues. Residents suffer from dehydration, starvation and the entire gamut of standard medical issues a poor population encounters.
In addition, the lack of any kind of Somali central government left the country with no liason to the international community. This has resulted in dumping of toxic chemicals in Somalia’s territorial waters. The recent Tsunami forces much of this waste to wash up on shore, and the local coastal populations are displaying some disturbing symptoms of radiation poisoning and other bizarre and dangerous medical conditions.
The cooperation between China and NATO, not exactly the closest strategic partners, is a good sign for world politics. Despite some differences, it is comforting to know that there is a certain level of cooperation still possible for the two powers.