A video update from Peru

Columban Fr. Ed O'Connell in Peru gives another update on the situation in the country and asks for your thoughts and prayers as we enter 2021.

The total number of cases of coronavirus on 29 December was 1,010,496 – passing the million mark – (48.6% in Lima and Callao) and 37,574 deaths (49.8% in Lima and Callao). The number of new cases fluctuates each day, but has been under 2,000 for several days now. The deaths, sadly, are now around 50 a day.

In an interview recently, the Deputy Minister of Health, Luis Suarez, mentioned “the prevalence for Metropolitan Lima is 39.6%, which means that, if we are around 10 million, about 4 million people have already been infected. For the rest of the country, studies have not yet been completed, and it is very likely that the final result will be around 30%. If we are a country of more than 30 million people, a third is a little more than 10 million Peruvians, who would have already been infected with the virus”. Another health specialist claimed that the deaths are around 70,000. That all sounds much nearer the truth when listening to the people about the spread of the virus and the number of deaths that went uncounted. We are expecting the second wave to pick up in numbers from January.

I accompany Manuel Duato Special Needs School, a Columban project. The teachers have been in “virtual” contact for 10 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.

The teachers are exhausted and worried. This latest update from the social worker was at the beginning of November but now are on the up again. The overall Manuel Duato figures: 13 students, of 395, have had Covid-19: 2 are in treatment, 1 relapsed and critical and 10 have recovered. Of the students’ families: 81 members have had Covid-19: 8 parents are in treatment, 4 parents have relapsed and 69 family members have recovered but also added to these figures, sadly, 3 fathers and 28 other relatives have died.

Of the 75 staff: 19 teachers have had Covid-19, 4 teachers are in treatment, 2 teachers have relapsed and 13 teachers have recovered. Of their family members, 48 have had Covid-19: 11 are in treatment, 15 have recovered, but sadly 22 family members have died.

We have helped 44 families on four occasions with amounts of around £25 each time but for Christmas we gave £50. Again, we are giving larger amounts to eight families who either have a special needs child with Covid-19 or are families with a member or more with Covid-19 or other serious illness; all are in dire financial difficulties.

The Warmi Huasi project accompanies children at risk in both San Benito, in the Lima districts of Carabayllo and San Martin de Porres, and in the Province of Paucar de Sara Sara, high up in the Andes mountains in the department of Ayacucho. Our Warmi Huasi teams are 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 in Ayacucho, telling stories and getting them to send in their stories.

In San Benito, the mothers of the four homework clubs run communal kitchens and a key local community leader started another. The figures for the end of October: families helped now number 209, with an average of 5 persons per family, means a total of 1,045 people receive a meal each day, along with social aspects. For example, the San Benito chapel communal kitchen has 11 elderly people, 4 disabled people, a single mother with her 5 children and various families with Covid-19, as social cases. We have been helping each communal kitchen with the purchase of food, especially vegetables, some chicken or fish, and bio-security equipment. There will be a special meal for all the children, adolescents and senior citizens just before Christmas, about 800 people, in the different communal kitchens, thanks to those who support my “family solidarity program”, of families in Ireland, England, United States, Australia and New Zealand who have given to help these families in Peru.

Another sad reality has not gone away. From January to November, the number of female children and adolescents that have disappeared has now risen to 3,510, and a further 1,506 women also, making the alarming total of 5,016. I find it unbelievable that nothing serious has been attempted to resolve or at least prevent this scandalous situation. Gender violence, slave trade including prostitution and interfamily problems are given as the causes and the Human Rights Office says it is prevalent all over the country.

We need more than the traditional season of goodwill to turn all these crises around. The wellbeing of people and the common good of the country demand a coalition of good-willed citizens to take to the streets again. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.


Are you interested in donating money to support Columban mission throughout the world?

Donate now