Rampant virus and disappearing women

by Fr. Ed O'Connell

Fr. Ed O'Connell, a Columban priest living in Peru gives an update on how the pandemic is affecting communities in the city.

The total number of cases of coronavirus on the 27 September in Peru was 805,302 (49.6% in Lima and Callao) and 32,262 deaths (50.3% in Lima and Callao). Of those who have died, 69.6% are elderly, 29.14 are adults, 0.84 are young people and 0.42 are adolescents and children. The curfew in Peru is from 11pm to 4am. Family and other social gatherings have been banned as well as religious ceremonies. On Sundays, people can go out, but private cars cannot circulate.

We average 6,000 new cases a day, or just under, and the deaths are either just above or below the 100 a day. In these days, for the first time, the percentage number of cases outside of Lima/Callao is greater than those in the capital.

Some flights to other South American countries will start at the beginning of October and possibly some flights further afield. There have always been occasional humanitarian flights.

I accompany Manuel Duato Special Needs School, a Columban project. The teachers have been in “virtual” contact for 7 months now with the parents and through them with nearly 400 children. The attendance in these virtual sessions by the parents has been outstanding with better percentages than most primary schools.   We have helped 44 families on three occasions. The teachers are exhausted and worried. 6 students have Covid-19, all in treatment, with one still in danger. 56 parents have Covid-19, 4 fathers have died, 2 parents have relapsed, 36 in treatment and only 14 have recovered. Of the staff: 8 teachers and 15 of their family members have Covid-19, 8 of the teachers and 6 of their family members are in treatment but 9 family members have died.

The Warmi Huasi project accompanies children at risk in both San Benito, in the district of Carabayllo, and in the Province of Paucar de Sara Sara, high up in the Andes mountains in the department of Ayacucho.

Our Warmi Huasi team  in Ayacucho is in touch constantly with the parents, teachers and municipal officials about the welfare of the children. We have given out all the books from the reading clubs so that the children have the books to read at home. We also have radio programs with the children, telling stories and getting them to send in their stories. The number of cases of Covid-19 is on the increase in Pausa.

In San Benito, the mothers of the four homework clubs run their communal kitchens and a key local community leader started another. The number of families helped is now 156, with an average of 5 persons per family, you have 780 people receiving meals each day. In the San Benito chapel, the communal kitchen have 10 elderly people and a single mother with her 5 children as social cases. We have been helping each communal kitchen with the purchase of foodstocks, especially vegetables, and with bio-security equipment.

The Venezuelan family of six, that were living on a flat roof in the rain, have been housed. Through our network of contacts, the mother is now school keeper of a small primary school. They have a big room, which they can divide into various spaces for the 4 children and the parents. Through funds received, we have been able to get them beds and mattresses, a table, chairs , gas for their cooker and a few utensils. Another family has been helped with medicines. There are a lot of good people, “samaritans”, who are helping those in need both here in Peru and in many countries.

Likewise, in the District of Independencia, people have organised themselves into local Covid-19 committees, to get the message home about using masks, social distancing and washing hands and they are providing a virtual information network to orientate families with members who have Covid-19, as to what to do. These committees are working together with the local State medical post and can count on the help of the doctor and staff there. Help was needed to equip the committees with bio-security materials to safeguard them in their work.

The Human Rights Office keep reminding us of the shocking news of 3,568 women, adolescents and young girls who have disappeared, from January to August: 1,011 women and 2,557 adolescents and young girls. This is a terrible crime, but in the midst of all that is happening it is not getting the attention it should.

The people are resilient – they keep going and many share what they have with others when the need arises. Many Peruvians started their lives in poverty and gradually improved their lot, but now  many of the 70% whose work is in the informal sector are destined to return to poverty.

Local women run communal kitchens with the help of Columban funds.

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