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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Navy Hospital Mission Boosts US Image In Muslim Nations

The recent mission of the U.S. Navy's hospital ship, USNS Mercy, did more than improve the health of thousands of people in Indonesia and Bangladesh. According to public opinion research released today by Terror Free Tomorrow, attitudes toward the United States in both countries -- the world's largest and third largest Muslim nations respectively -- also improved.

Today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Admiral Mike Mullen, chief of naval operations, joined John Howe, III, M.D., president and chief executive of Project HOPE, to share the results of the Mercy's recent five-month deployment to the Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh and East Timor.

In addition, Kenneth Ballen, president of Terror Free Tomorrow, revealed new public opinion surveys that demonstrate the impact humanitarian aid missions, such as the recent Mercy mission, have onchanging perceptions about the United States.

William Winkenwerder, Jr., M.D., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs and Karen Hughes, under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs at the U.S. Department of State, also participated in the event.

"Improving health and saving lives of people in need was the first priority for the U.S. Navy personnel, Project HOPE volunteers and otherswho participated in the recent USNS Mercy mission," says Dr. Howe."However, the research tells another story. It appears we healed more thanphysical wounds during the mission."

Terror Free Tomorrow's Ballen reported that 85 percent of Indonesians who were aware of the Mercy mission had a favorable opinion. In Bangladesh,95 percent were favorable of the mission.

"There is a remarkable consensus among the people of Indonesia andBangladesh in favor of humanitarian aid missions like the Mercy," says Ballen. "The results included supporters of Bin Laden, people opposed tothe U.S. war on terror and even those who favor suicide bombings. Regardless of their opinions, they all were favorable of the USNS Mercy mission."

In Bangladesh, 87 percent of the people surveyed said the activities ofthe Mercy made their opinion of the U.S. more favorable.

When asked what would make their opinion of the U.S. more favorable inthe future, the people of Indonesia and Bangladesh said additional andexpanded visits from the Mercy would be the second most influential actionthe U.S. could take. Number one was more educational scholarships.

The research also found that the people surveyed were more favorable tothe aid being delivered through a U.S. Navy ship by margins of 6 to 1 in Indonesia and 2 to 1 in Bangladesh.


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