Take action for families affected by COVID-19 in South America
In the face of a global health crisis, low-income populations are particularly vulnerable. That’s why we’re urgently seeking donations to support our partner communities through COVID-19 in South America
UPDATE: Thanks to your generous donations, we’ve already delivered food to 500+ families… but our work is far from done! We’re continuing to raise funds to support communities across our other sites.
Effects of COVID-19 in South America
At MEDLIFE, we believe access to healthcare is a human right and should not depend on a person’s social status. However, socio-economic factors like a person’s income, employment status, and social class are already shaping the course of COVID-19 in South America. Our hearts were broken when we heard about the death of Cleonice Gonçalves, a 63-year-old Brazillian housekeeper. She reportedly contracted COVID-19 after her wealthy employer returned from Italy with symptoms and failed to take action to prevent transmission.
In the areas we work, we are already witnessing the ways COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting low-income communities. In particular, the situation in Lima, Peru (where social inequalities run deep) is deteriorating rapidly. Here are some of the impacts being felt so far:
Loss of income
Many community members rely on informal work as laborers, housekeepers, and nannies to keep food on the table. However, the country-wide lockdown has stopped them from going to work and earning an income. This leaves families unable to purchase food and keep healthy during this time.
Lack of access to medical services
Many of our follow-up patients live in isolated areas and are unable to travel to seek healthcare during the lockdown. Unfortunately, we are not permitted to bring healthcare services through our Mobile Clinics at this time. An added concern is that if they do contract the virus, they will have to rely on the public health service (if they are even able to reach a hospital) which is likely to be under-resourced.
The issue of water shortages highlights Lima’s social inequality. Low-income communities don’t have enough water to meet their basic needs. Meanwhile, we’ve heard reports that wealthy communities have sufficient resources to continue watering the greenery in their public parks – even though no one is permitted to go outside and enjoy them during lockdown! Water is not only a basic necessity for survival but also important for maintaining personal hygiene and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Continue reading to learn about how COVID-19 is affecting the families & patients we work with.
Alexander & Yaneth from Cusco, Peru
After being orphaned at a young age, Alexander’s sister, Yaneth, became his primary caregiver. We first met Alexander at a Mobile Clinic in March 2019. Flash forward to 2020, and our Cusco team has supported Alexander through two surgeries for his cleft palate and renovated his home! (Thanks to MEDLIFErs from University of Maryland-College Park and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst for bringing this renovation project to life!)
Alexander and Yaneth have lost their income because of the lockdown. Yaneth was working as a waitress in the touristic Sacred Valley region. However, due to the mandatory quarantine and the border closures, the tourism and hospitality industries have been paralyzed.
Kimberly from Tena, Ecuador
5-year-old Kimberly has been one of our follow-up patients since 2016. She has a rare case of lymphoma (a type of cancer that begins in infection-fighting cells of the immune system) and our team of nurses in Ecuador have been helping her access treatment. Kimberly’s mother earns a living by providing laundry services. However, due to the drop in tourism caused by COVID-19, her customers can no longer afford her services.
To make matters worse, the price of basic foods like vegetables and grains have increased because of the restrictions on transportation. As a result, Kimberly’s family is struggling to put food on the table. This is a major concern because maintaining a healthy weight is important for Kimberly to be able to receive surgeries that could save her life.
Selvestrina from Lima, Peru
Selvestrina and her husband are no strangers to hard times. After losing family members to terrorism during the 1980s, they moved to Lima in search of a better life. Our team first met Selvestrina in 2013 and facilitated her much-needed dental reconstruction. Since then, she has lived with her husband in a home we constructed working hand in hand with the community.
Before the mandatory lockdown was announced, Selvestrina’s daughters were living nearby and bringing her food and water. Unfortunately, her daughters have had to leave the community in order to protect the health and safety of their own children. This means that Selvestrina and her husband are relying on the charity of their neighbours to survive. Luckily, the community has been coming together and pooling their resources to make soup for struggling families. However, as the entire community continues to face massive job losses and serious water shortages, they are quickly running out of resources to support Selvestrina.
Epifania from Cusco, Peru
Epifania was almost free from a lengthy battle against cervical cancer when the lockdown began. Thanks to support from MEDLIFE nurses, she received treatment before mandatory quarantine and we are now hoping for good news from her doctors on her condition.
The lockdown has impacted Epifania by preventing her from purchasing food for herself and her 4 children. During this time, the authorities permit people to leave home for essential services (like food and medicine) but Epifania lives on a hill 30 minutes by foot from the nearest town. As a recovering cancer patient, this is a difficult journey for her to make. Due to the restrictions on transport, there are no taxis or buses to take her into town to purchase food.
Water shortages in Union Santa Fe
As many of you know, MEDLIFE has been working hand in hand with Union Santa Fe for years. Our collaboration has brought electricity, staircases, sanitation projects, high-quality healthcare, and even an education center to the community. More recently, we’ve been working on building retention walls to bring the community closer to obtaining Land Title.
Right now, the community of Union Santa Fe needs your support more than ever. Water is usually brought to Union Santa Fe in trucks, but the lockdown has caused an increased demand and the supply cannot keep up. In order to access water, community members have no choice but to break the mandatory quarantine (thus putting their health at risk) and walk down the rocky hillside in search of water trucks. If they are able to find a truck, they have to pay double or triple the usual price per tank.