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    NAMRU-6 Microbiologist Embarks with Peruvian Navy Vessel along the Amazon River

    NAMRU-6 Microbiologist Embarks with Peruvian Navy Vessel along the Amazon River

    Photo By Jerome Martin | NAMRU-6 Microbiologist Embarks with Peruvian Navy Vessel along the Amazon River... read more read more

    PUTUMAYO RIVER, Peru-A staff member from U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 6 (NAMRU-6) embarked with the Peruvian Navy aboard the vessel B.A.P Rio Putumayo II (PIAS 3104) in Iquitos, Peru for a 30-day mission from 19 November to 19 December along the Putumayo River, which forms the border between Peru and Colombia. Stephen Lizewski, microbiologist and Deputy Department Head of Parasitology, joined this mission at the invitation of the Peruvian Navy. The mission is a way to strengthen relationships between the U.S. and Partner Nation of Peru, increase the US competitive advantage in the Southern Command Area of Responsibility (SOUTHCOM AOR), and gain first-hand knowledge of an area critical to the mission of NAMRU-6.

    The Peruvian Navy has been operating in these areas for years, but it was only in 2015 when the partnership between the Navy and the civilian ministries took root and the PIAS program took off. Since then, the PIAS program has conducted five campaigns per year into these secluded regions.

    “It is extremely difficult to reach these communities,” exclaimed Mr. Ramirez. Dr. Pola Salas, a general practitioner in the Ministry of Health agrees that due to the remoteness of the locations, “it is almost impossible for the people in these communities to receive medical assistance.”

    “In the past, the people along the river felt the government forgot about the Rio Putumayo communities,” said David Ramirez, the PIAS manger onboard Rio Putumayo II, “but now people feel included in Peru.”

    The ship’s mission is to bring medical and social services to the most remote, inaccessible communities in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest. Itinerant Social Action Platform (PIAS in Spanish) is a collaboration between the Peruvian Navy and six Peruvian government ministries, under the lead of the Ministry of Social Inclusion.

    The Peruvian Navy operates the vessel while the embarked ministries provide their specific services in medical, education, banking, and protection for vulnerable populations, all with the goal of deepening the inclusion of these isolated communities into the greater sense of community within Peru. PIAS brings a sense of national identity to people living in these communities.

    LCDR Lizewski advanced several NAMRU-6 research projects while onboard. He augmented the ship’s medical component with advanced testing equipment that increased the testing capabilities for diarrheal and febrile illness that generated results in about 1 hour. The results also provided an idea of what diseases were present in the area, and which ones were not; information that is critical for NAMRU-6 research. For example, bacterial and parasitic causes of diarrheal disease were prevalent but surprisingly malaria cases were not. LCDR Lizewski also collected water samples for use in both identifying disease-causing bacteria in the environment, and in identifying new ways to treat infections caused by such bacteria.

    At the start of each day in a community, the crew met with the community casiki, the community leader, and with the community members. This meeting would introduce the community to the crew. LCDR Lizewski always attended these meetings, and in one community, along with the ship’s CO and Mr. Ramirez, he was invited to dinner with the casiki. This was rare cultural exchange between an American and a Murui Muinani casiki.

    One recurring theme of the voyage was the remoteness of the upper Putumayo River and difficulty in operating in the area. Few non-governmental organizations (NGO) work in the area, in large part because of the logistical difficulties in getting there; it is accessible only by river, and devoid of roads. The rivers are the roads. The PIAS mission provides the Peruvian government a positive presence in the Putumayo region, which is under a special emergency zone due to narcotics trafficking. One goal of PIAS is to keep those in the communities from engaging in narcotics trafficking by providing services that the traffickers cannot. The Navy provides the logistics and security for the operation, which allows the ministries to complete their missions without fear of attack.

    According to Lizewski, the most rewarding part of participating in the PIAS was, working with the Peruvians living in these remote communities to improve their quality of life.

    NAMRU-6 has a long-standing agreement with the Peruvian Navy that dates back to 1983. Hosted by the Peruvian Navy and co-located at their flagship hospital in Lima, and also at the Naval Clinic in Iquitos and in Puerto Maldonado, NAMRU-6 conducts research on and surveillance of a wide range of infectious diseases of military or public health significance in the region, including malaria and dengue fever, yellow fever, viral encephalitides, leishmaniasis, and enteric diseases such as shigellosis and typhoid fever, as well as anti-microbial resistance monitoring.

    About NAMRU-6

    NAMRU-6 supports Global Health Engagement through many of our activities which are directly linked to international diplomacy, host-nation centered healthcare, capacity and capability building, and enhances health security cooperation.



    Date Taken: 03.05.2020
    Date Posted: 03.12.2020 14:52
    Story ID: 365069
    Location: PE

    Web Views: 250
    Downloads: 1