CHALLENGES COMMUNITIES ARE FACING DUE TO THE COVID-19 CRISIS
In Peru, the most vulnerable populations have been the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Rural communities on the altiplano already suffer from a lack of basic health services, economic insecurity, and marginalization and are facing devastating physical and economic effects due to the global crisis. The local health centers of the region lack many vital resources required to provide health services in response to the virus and the global economic crisis has had a devastating impact on the fragile economy of rural communities.
Tourism and artisan associations have experienced a severe decrease in their income because tourism in Peru has been completely suspended while the country has been under a strict quarantine since March 16th. Alpaca herders and cattle herders have also experienced a decrease in income because limited inter-regional travel has made it difficult to sell their products to third party distributors.
OUR RESPONSE TO COVID-19
INFORM THROUGH COMMUNITY RADIO
Radio is an important form of communication in the rural sector where many remote communities have limited or non-existent access to cell phone service and internet. Our partners at Pro-DIA began a weekly 2-hour radio program in May that provides information on health and prevention topics as well as financial education related to COVID-19. The program is broadcasted in both Spanish and the local language of Quechua on the local radio in Pucará.
PROVIDE PPE TO RURAL HEALTH CENTERS
Many rural health centers in the Puno region lack proper equipment to provide services in response to COVID-19. In response to this lack of equipment, The Chijnaya Foundation worked with Pro-DIA to supply 34 workers in the 5 rural health centers in the district of Pucará with PPE kits. The kits include protective suits, face shields, shoe sanitizer trays, and hand sanitizer.
PARTICIPATE IN LOCAL PREVENTION EFFORTS
Local organizations in Pucará, including the municipality and community leaders, have formed a group called “Commando COVID” with the goal of combining efforts to contribute to the prevention of COVID-19 in the district. Pro-DIA is an official member of this group and is dedicated to using the weekly radio program to share important information from the various organizations participating in Comando COVID.
CONTINUE TO SUPPORT PROJECTS THAT PROVIDE ECONOMIC STABILITY
Economic development has been at the heart of the Chijnaya Foundation since the beginning. We have been supporting community-led projects that help communities improve and gain more autonomy over their income generating activities with the goal of increasing income and improving the family economy. These projects are especially important this year as a way to offset the effects of the global economic crisis.
OVERVIEW OF NEW SAFETY MEASURES AND PROGRAM CHANGES
In accordance with the social distancing and quarantine requirements of Peru, the Pro-DIA office in Pucará was closed from March-October and Pro-DIA staff coordinated all new and existing projects while working remotely. At the beginning of October, many quarantine restrictions were lifted in the Puno region where we work, so Pro-DIA has been able to reopen the office and work in-person with communities, following all health and safety guidelines to ensure the well-being of staff and community members.
There have been changes to some programs to ensure the safety and well-being of staff. Dra. Maria del Carmen Aragon, the dentist in charge of the Oral Health Program, will not be providing dental treatments for the rest of 2020, however she will continue to provide training on oral health for children and their parents, as well as training on prevention and health topics related to COVID-19.
Savings Group meetings were on hold or were held remotely while Puno was under a strict quarantine. Rosmery Montesinos, the Director of the Savings Program, has been facilitating these meetings by phone in order to comply with local social distancing measures. Since restrictions have been lifted, groups have the option to continue meeting remotely or hold in person meetings with social distancing.
We are working with communities on an individual basis to assess their needs and assist them to make necessary modifications to projects and repayment plans for rotating funds under the Economic Development Program. Repayment of rotating funds for 2018-2019 projects will be extended for communities that are not able to payback funds this year.
WHAT HAS REMAINED THE SAME
Although we have made changes to adapt to the current circumstances, many existing programs and projects have remained the same and are vital, now more than ever, to support to communities as they face new challenges.
Artisans, tourism associations, cattle herders, and alpaca herders all rely on third parties who purchase their products and services, further process them, and sell them for a much higher price. The Economic Development Program was created in response to communities’ desire to gain more autonomy over their small businesses and economic stability through increased income. Since 2005 we have been supporting community-led projects that support these goals. These projects are critical as communities continue to develop and formalize their small businesses to receive a stable income in the face of the global crisis. Many projects, such as the Oat Seed Purchase Projects in the communities of Mallajasi and Chillin, will provide communities with an additional source of income for the year and help offset the decrease in income that they are experiencing. You can read about the different projects communities proposed for 2020 here.
The Scholarship Program is also of vital importance as families face economic hardships, making it challenging to support the higher education of their children. Although scholars are facing new challenges with university classes moving to a digital platform, the Pro-DIA team is in contact with each of the scholarship recipients to assess their needs and provide support where we can.