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Armed forces mission provides aid to poor parts of Peru

Villagers watch a welcome ceremony for visiting military as soldiers stand guard in Surcubamba, Peru, Thursday, May 21, 2015. The Joint Command of the Peruvian Armed Forces organized a humanitarian mission to Surcubamba, where health care was provided to families from nearby villages in this region called VRAEM, the acronym for Valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro rivers, where sixty percent of Peru's cocaine originates. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

SURCUBAMBA, Peru (AP) — The 5,000 inhabitants of this Quechua-speaking region in Peru’s top cocaine-producing valley on Thursday got health care, medicine, eyeglasses and shoes from two mobile hospitals sent by the country’s military.

Brig. Gen. Jose Galindo said the aid mission to impoverished communities in the valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro rivers included roughly 200 soldiers, along with ophthalmologists, cardiologists, gynecologists, dentists, obstetricians and radiologists.

In Surcubamba, 300 kilometers (186 miles) east of Lima, widower Eustaquio Rodriguez, 86, said he had his hair cut for the first time in almost two years by a military barber.

Maria Gavilan, a 52-year-old mother of seven, received a pair of glasses to fight the myopia she has suffered for more than 40 years.

“It is the first time an eye doctor has come. There is none here,” she said, referring to Surcubamba, where 87 percent of the people live in poverty and 53 percent suffer from chronic malnutrition.

Military officials said ophthalmologists examined more than 300 people and dentists gave more than 400 checkups, mainly to children.

The military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff has being staging humanitarian missions in the vast and remote cocaine-producing valley since 2013.

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