Peruvian Navy Brings Healthcare, Social Services to Amazon Region

Peruvian Navy Brings Healthcare, Social Services to Amazon Region

By Dialogo
December 14, 2015

The Peruvian Navy’s Traveling Social Action Platforms (PIAS, for its Spanish acronym) have provided medical assistance and social programs to more than 130,900 residents in the Amazon rainforest since the initiative was launched in 2013.

The platforms are components of Peru’s Enduring Social Action Plan, which aims to improve the quality of life for those living in poverty and social ostracization in rural areas throughout the region. “The PIAS’s primary enduring objective is to bring government services and programs in a modular form to remote areas of the Amazon where they are most needed,” Rear Admiral Javier Gaviola Tejada, General Commander of Amazonian Operations and of the Fifth Naval Zone, told Diálogo
. “These vessels bring together collaborative and intergovernmental teams that offer government services.”

Providing services to remote areas

PIAS, which have interpreters who speak the languages of indigenous people, provide general healthcare, medical, and dental treatment to the rural Amazonian population. They also offer other services, such as Pensión 65 - a program that provides monetary assistance to poor people age 65 and older - and Cuna Más, an initiative to support the physical, emotional, and cognitive development of children younger than age 3. The Navy also undertakes the JUNTOS Program, which helps indigenous people with financial planning, education, and identification registration, and Qali Warma
, a national program to foster a nutritious diet in schools.

“The Peruvian Navy has a long history of serving in the Amazon that goes back more than 150 years, helping to provide development to places that are the most difficult to get to due to their geographic characteristics. For more than 50 years, the Peruvian Navy has been bringing government services to these populations by way of their floating hospitals, which were what the current social action strategy was based upon.”

The PIAS project was born out of an initiative started by the Peruvian Navy that relied on a boat used by drug traffickers before it was impounded by the National Commission of Seized Goods (CONABI). The Navy invested 7 million Nuevos Soles (US$2.07 million) to fund the project, which used the seized boat as its base vessel, according to a report by UNICEF Peru.

The initiative has expanded, and today PIAS has three vessels – “Río Napo,” “Río Morona,” and “Río Putumayo I” – that traverse their namesake rivers and assigned watersheds.

“Since 2013, the Río Napo PIAS has successfully completed 12 separate campaigns and is currently working on its 13th,” Rear Adm. Gaviola explained. “The Río Putumayo I has completed two campaigns following its June inauguration this year, and the Río Morona is now working on its first campaign.”

Many residents in remote, rural areas would not have access to medical and dental care and social support if were not for the Navy, which uses these services to strengthen its relationship with the civilian population.

“The inter-institutional social work that happens aboard these ships allows Navy personnel to interact directly with civilians. This allows them to achieve an understanding of the problems that exist in the communities they reach and provides support in resolving those which are within the scope of the mission. Also, the fact that the visit dates are agreed upon with the communities ensures that there is permanent contact between them and our own local authorities.”

Overcoming challenges to help the civilian population

To provide these services, the Navy has overcome numerous challenges, including the Amazon region’s rugged geography, social conflicts, extreme poverty, drug trafficking, terrorism, illegal mining and logging, human trafficking, and a multitude of diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever.

“The poor conditions challenge the Peruvian Navy to provide a response to all the threats that constantly plague the Amazonian population,” Rear Adm. Gaviola said. “It’s because of these threats that sustained efforts using the PIAS are necessary. Little by little, we will eventually be able to overcome these.”

The Navy has three PIAS and is building two more. Workers construct these modern floating structures primarily in the shipyards belonging to the Navy’s Industrial Services in Iquitos. Eventually, the Navy will have 12 PIAS, with each conducting four to five missions annually that will last between 30-45 days and consist of Naval personnel spending between one to three days in each town, according to the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion.

Final missions of 2015

The Napo, Morona, and Putumayo I recently conducted their final mission of 2015, providing healthcare and social services to communities in the department of Loreto.

Loreto has “districts with inhabitants who are considered to be living in poverty and extreme poverty…24.3% of children in this department suffer from chronic malnutrition, and 32.2% of Loreto’s adolescents have already been pregnant at some point in their lives,” according to a video published by the Peruvian Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations on December 16, 2013.

With 51 different indigenous peoples in Peru, the PIAS provided healthcare and social services to the indigenous communities of Wampis, Kichuas, Secollas, Ocaica, Bora, Awajún, Ashuar, Yagua, and Muruimuinami. For its part the Ministry of Education offered guidance to teachers regarding bilingual and intercultural education and delivered training and other materials in their native languages. Meanwhile, representatives from the National Commission for Development and Life without Drugs, the National Registry of Identification and Civil Status, the Ministry of Culture, the Environment Ministry, the Ministry of Justice, and the Federal Reserve Bank of the Nation provided an array of services to help community members.