A joint humanitarian mission by the Colombian and U.S. military in the south of Colombia has been able to provide treatment to over 3,300 people in its first week, a Colombian general taking part in the mission told Colombia Reports.
The medical mission, a joint operation by the Colombian authorities, the U.S. military and private doctors, flew first to the Caqueta department last Monday, staying for four days in the capital San Vicente de Caguan, previously a stronghold of leftist FARC guerrillas. After attending to 2,200 patients there, they moved to La Macarena, Meta, where the soldiers and doctors set up camp for the second leg of their mission, which ends on Wednesday.
According to General Javier Florez, the mission is part of the Colombian government’s Consolidation Plan which seeks to re-establish the presence of the state in areas which have been held by guerrillas.
“The U.S. government and the U.S. military group continue to support the Colombian military and our government’s efforts to provide the population of remote or previously denied areas with humanitarian assistance, in this case, basic medical assistance to as many as humanly possible,” Florez said.
The security of the mission is mainly in hands of the Colombian military, but is supported by U.S. personnel.
A total of ten medics and dozens of supporting personnel have been receiving some 550 locals a day during the first leg of the mission in Caqueta, the general said.
According to Florez, the mission is greatly rewarding for those involved. “Treating elderly people in areas like optometry or even general medicine provides an immense satisfaction to doctors as well as all personnel supporting these efforts. We have also seen a great number of children and infants as well as pregnant women. We believe everyone has had an impact on all of us.”
Florez stresses that humanitarian missions like this are “part of U.S.-Colombia bilateral cooperation agreements on U.S. assistance in Colombia. The governments of Colombia and the United States, as well as their militaries, will continue to plan for future humanitarian assistance activities to reach other areas in Colombia and bring much needed medical attention to the population.”
The U.S. military was involved in another humanitarian mission last year, when thousands of people were helped from a navy vessel on the Pacific coast.
There is no date or location set for a next humanitarian mission.