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Peruvian Armed Forces Joint Command Provides Humanitarian Assistance in the VRAEM Region

Peruvian Armed Forces Joint Command Provides Humanitarian Assistance in the VRAEM Region

By Dialogo
July 06, 2015

More support to eradicate drug trafficking and create work centers using the raw materials produced in the area to facilitate markets to sell it abroad God bless you all. He will never forget any of you. God's word says love your neighbor as yourself, amen. Thank you beautiful and interesting

The Peruvian Armed Forces have provided humanitarian assistance to at least 15,000 people during four missions since January in impoverished neighborhoods in the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro River Valleys (VRAEM) region.

Those were just the first of twelve operations planned for the year by the Office of the Joint Chiefs, which hopes to provide treatment to more than 60,000 people living in poverty in the VRAEM. The Peruvian Armed Forces Joint Command (CCFFAA) reports that it is working to contribute to the “full development of the VRAEM communities through performance of tasks that promote inclusion in society and universal access to health care in a timely fashion.”

That effort “requires bringing everything that you can enjoy, at this very moment, from various places across the country, particularly from Lima, so that the government can establish a presence in this district,” said Major General Hernán Flores Ayala, Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during the May 20 opening ceremony for a recent operation at the Plaza de Armas in Surcubamba.

During that operation, about 1,500 service members -- including Armed Forces medical personnel and Troops who provided security and logistics support -- provided on medical and social welfare assistance to the civilian populations of Surcubamba, Bellavista, Jatusana, Matara, Paucarmarca, Pueblo Libre, Sachacoto, Socos, Vista Alegre, and Yananyac. Participants offered residents treatment in 14 medical specialties; general medicine, pediatrics, gynecology, obstetrics, endocrinology, gastroenterology, opthalmology, and dentistry were among the most requested.

In another operation -- the most recent -- Troops assisted 490 children and adolescents at education centers in the Puerto Ocopa, Junín region on June 3 and 4. Six weeks earlier, 25 physician specialists worked with the Armed Forces to provide medical check-ups for 5,000 people in Kiteni, Cusco region. And on March 7-10, the Joint Command conducted its first operation of the year, assisting 2,000 people in the Ayacucho department with the help of 26 physicians.

Cooperation with government and private groups

The Armed Forces Joint Command isn't working alone. It's reaching out to communities throughout the VRAEM, and transporting medical specialists from the Armed Forces Health Care units, from Health Care Social Security (EsSalud) and the Ministry of Health. Those physicians provide free medical check-ups at the Army Campaign Hospital.

Other government and private institutions are also contributing to the initiative, including the National Commission for Development and a Life without Drugs (DEVIDA), the Drug Abuse Prevention, the Research and Education Center (CEDRO), the Ministry of Women, and the National Association of Pharmaceuticals Industries (ADIFAN). The latter group has donated items such as medicine, clothing, tools for field work, school kids, staple vegetables, and labor and legal consultations.

For its part, the Special Project for Control and Reduction of Illegal Farming in Alto Huallaga (CORAH, for its Spanish acronym), an organization responsible for manually erradicating illegal coca plantations for the past 33 years, also works jointly with the Peruvian National Police to support development of coca growing regions throughout Peru.

"With support from the Community Social Responsibility Program (PRSC, for its Spanish acronym), CORAH seeks to bring these communities closer socially by promoting a change in attitude, as well as improving the community's income by leveraging from the local potential and consolidating a legal structure to allow them to articulate into the process of national development," said Walter Guerrero, Chief of the Communication Office for CORAH.

"The experience we've accumulated with the PRSC during the last five years can undoubtedly support the alternative development actions executed by the state and its institutions in the communities that still depend on narcotrafficking in the VRAEM."

An ongoing effort to alleviate poverty

The Joint Command's efforts to alleviate poverty in the VRAEM region began in November 2013, when the Armed Forces provided social aid to 4,000 residents of the district of Río Negro, in the department of Junín.

Such efforts are a high priority for the Peruvian government. In 2012, it allocated about 194 million dollars for projects to strengthen the fight against poverty, terrorism, and illegal drug trafficking in the area. For 2015, the government is proposing to allocate nearly three times that amount for those purposes.

As those budgets suggest, the Military isn't just providing humanitarian assistance; it's also working to eradicate the illegal cultivation of coca crops in the VRAEM region. “This sort of civic activity is also aimed at finding partners in sensitive areas [of VRAEM] due to the presence of the terrorist remnants of Shining Path,” said Orlando Paredes, member of the Latin American Security and Defense Network (RESDAL) in Peru.

The Shining Path engages in drug trafficking in the region to finance its terrorist actions; authorities estimate that 20,000-30,000 hectares of coca leaf plantations exist in the VRAEM. But by providing humanitarian relief, the Joint Command reported in November 2013, it can "deactivate several social and criminal threats impacting the population” -- threats like Shining Path.

The Armed Forces is planning to conduct its next social welfare operation in the Río Tambo Hydrographic Basin, a region that is home to 44 Asháninka and Machiyenga communities, which suffer the highest poverty rates in VRAEM.

Since early June, Armed Forces members, in coordination with authorities from the Río Tambo district, have been gathering information about the needs of the civilian populations in these communities to plan the next mission.