Salvadoran Armed Forces Provide Free Healthcare to Needy Residents
By Dialogo October 27, 2015
The Salvadoran Armed Forces’ Sixth Infantry Brigade provided free medical and dental care to the civilian population as part of a mission in the village of El Limón and the areas surrounding Puerto Parada in the department of Usulután on September 23.
“More than 400 people received free medical appointments in general medicine, gynecology, and dentistry,” said Infantry Colonel Boris Blandon, chief of Group V, Civilian Affairs, at the Salvadoran Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff, adding that the Sixth Infantry Brigade “renders aid to those people most in need. Many have no means to pay, others live far from health centers, and there are those who live in places where the tides almost never recede.”
During the operation, 17 Military and civilian physicians diagnosed patients, provided medical and dental treatments, and supplied medicine at the El Chorizo School in El Limón.
“The Armed Forces not only bring the populace security, but also provide the people with health services, which is a fundamental human right,” said Colonel Fredy López Herrería, director of the Sixth Infantry Brigade's Medical Aid Operation.
The Sixth Infantry Brigade is not the only Military team conducting such missions. Between June 2014 and May 2015, the Armed Forces carried out 29 medical campaigns throughout El Salvador, providing healthcare to about 20,000 low-income people, including disabled Military veterans and their families.
A collaborative effort
The Armed Forces also carried out this latest mission in coordination with Puerto Parada’s municipal government, the Combined Health Fund, the Ministry of Education, and the Association for Community Development. Their collaborative effort also provided haircuts, cultural activities, piñatas, candies, and advice to teenagers on how to avoid gangs.
The program is part of the Armed Forces' ongoing effort to administer healthcare and other services to the civilian population. On October 20, Military physicians from different specialties provided free medical consultations to over 340 people in the municipality of Jucuapa; and three months earlier, on July 22, Military doctors treated 340 residents of the municipality of Nueva Granada.
“This year, the Sixth Infantry Brigade has conducted three humanitarian aid operations in its area of responsibility (Usulután) to bring health services to those who need them the most,” Col. Blandon explained. “There will be two more such operations before the end of the year.”
These healthcare missions are popular with the civilian population, and working with them is an important component of the Armed Forces' overall msision.
“We are a tool to help fulfill the government’s plans,” Col. Blandon explained. “The people are truly pleased because we come to deal with very sensitive situations like their health and nutrition...The people want the Armed Forces to always be in their zone, and we show the authorities that the need is great in many places. After we open a space to provide immediate aid, what we try to do is encourage the authorities to continue the medical aid that the people need.”
In addition to providing medical and dental care, the Military is also prepared to assist the civilian population in the event of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or earthquake.
“All throughout the year, our country is repeatedly hit by different phenomena like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters. Civil-Military programs allow us to respond rapidly during emergency situations.”
Military fights crime, violence
Besides providing healthcare and humanitarian assistance during natural disasters, the Military also works to keep the civilian population safe from violent criminal groups, such as the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 (M-18) street gangs.
“The cooperation with the Armed Forces in humanitarian matters is excellent. However, today more than ever we need to join forces to fight crime and violence,” Mayor Piedra said. “Usulután is one of the four Salvadoran departments that have been most impacted by gang violence.”
Army Troops and the National Civil Police provided security for the team providing medical assistance to the civilian population in Usulután.
As part of the country's broad, long-term public safety strategy, the Armed Forces will determine priority zones for security forces with support from two SOUTHCOM civil affairs teams, Col. Blandon explained.
“Together with local authorities, we are looking into the needs of specific populations, whether for right now or long-term,” Col. Blandon explained. “In cooperation with the Armed Forces from other countries, in this case the United States, we are conducting reconnaissance throughout the country, which will help us determine the areas that need immediate assistance.”
The U.S. Military team has provided “a lot of support” in the departments of Santa Ana, San Miguel, Usulután, as well as in the country's eastern region, Col. Blandon concluded.