Lima Community - 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. 

Water shortages 

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 - COVID-19 in South AmericaAlexander & 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 - COVID-19 in South AmericaKimberly 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 - COVID-19 in South AmericaSelvestrina 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 - COVID-19 in South AmericaEpifania 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. 

Union Santa Fe - COVID-19 in South AmericaWater 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.

Times are tough across all corners of the globe. But if you are able, we encourage you to consider donating to help us keep vulnerable families affected by COVID-19 in South America healthy and safe during the lockdown and its aftermath.


Hear it From MEDLIFErs

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Reya Seby
Western University

This trip motivated me more to pursue a career in the healthcare field so that I can use my resources to help those who need it the most, similar to MEDLIFE’s mission.

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Victoria DiCanio
University of Connecticut

It was most enjoyable to finish the hard work and see how big a difference a group of individuals can make. It was such an amazing experience.

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Anita Woo
University of Toronto

I enjoyed the mobile clinics the most, especially the dental and triage portions. I would definitely recommend a MEDLIFE trip, it was a great experience.

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David Saff
Maclay High School

The most enjoyable part of my trip was hanging out with the amazing group of kids I was with. I would highly recommend a MEDLIFE volunteer trip to others.

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Sydney Sansone
Nova Southeastern University

This trip made everything that I was learning in my public health courses come to life and immersed me in a new culture while also learning about medicine.

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Abygail Youmans
College of Charleston

Being involved with MEDLIFE is not like joining another club - its bigger than that. It is about joining a movement that seeks to help change people’s quality of life for forever.

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Emi Hofmann
University of Central Florida

Not only was I able to participate in a week long Mobile Clinic, shadowing doctors of all types of specialties including pharmacy, dentistry, gynecology, and more, but I was also able to learn about the culture and visit incredible places.

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Julian Takagi-Stewart
University of Toronto

One thing that I really loved about this trip was that MEDLIFE made sure that the volunteers got an understanding of the complexity of issues that lead to underprivileged people in communities outside of the main city

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Hannah Van Hofwegen
University of Ottawa

Whether it was basketball with the local kids, assisting the doctors, talking with families, building washrooms, holding babies, or spending time with the people who were on the SLT with me, this was an amazing opportunity that I would do over and over again.

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Isabelle Holt
Cornell University

I loved learning about the patients MEDLIFE has followed and how they offer real help to people with chronic/urgent conditions. It is amazing how the organization formed real connections with the communities.

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Valerie Lindeborg

Our family had the privilege of participating in multiple trips with Nick [founder] and his amazing staff. Their expertise made the trips unforgettable while instilling in my boys the fundamentals of good character: selflessness, compassion, and empathy.

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Harry Vildibill
University of Georgia

As an aspiring physician, MEDLIFE motivated me to further continue my goal of becoming a doctor. In fact, I enjoyed the Tanzania Service Learning Trip so much that I decided to go on another trip to Cusco, Peru.