A recent letter sent from Fr. Ed O’Connell which gives an update of life in Peru.
On the 15th March, a Sunday evening, the President of Peru declared a State of Emergency from the 16th, which meant none of us, except those with essential tasks to fulfill, can leave their homes until the 30th March. It was extended on Thursday 26th, for 13 days, and then on Wednesday 8th the lockdown was further extended to the 26th April. The curfew now is from 6pm to 4am.
The total number of people with coronavirus is 7,519 (Sunday 12th), but the number of people infected is probably near to double that! There have been 193 deaths from the coronavirus in Peru.
Lima will continue on lockdown until the 26th April. I feel it should be for even longer, as we like the UK will only be reaching the peak by the end of April, if the people stay at home and maintain social distancing. Here, the people find it difficult to keep distance when shopping and often two are going out or more.
Normal life has been suspended. But how will the poor survive, as 70% of the population are in the informal sector, hand to mouth as it were. No work, no money! Now we are closing in on the end of the fourth week, there must be many going hungry.
The State has given the poorest families $100 as a lump sum, which was repeated in this second lockdown period, but not all have received the first amount, as it is difficult to administer such a program and many fall outside of those selected anyway.
New measures, to distribute funding via Regional Administrations: Provincial and District Municipalities, has been underway as and from Thursday 26th March. The effectiveness of this approach is not clear yet.
The teachers of the Manuel Duato Special Needs School, of which I chair the Board of Governors, have set up set up virtual contact with the parents for work with the nearly 400 children, though given their severity, it is more to make sure they have a routine in their day, reinforce the hand washing and keeping distance as well as taking exercise. The autistic children have special permission to go outside as they find confinement unbearable.
With Warmi Huasi: one team normally works in San Benito, a township on the northern side of Lima in the district of Carabayllo and the other team in the Province of Paucar de Sara Sara, high up in the Andes mountains of the department of Ayacucho. We are finding out from the Ministry of Education at local levels and from the Municipalities in the two areas, our two main allies in our work to accompany children and adolescents at risk, as to what are their priorities now. The financial organisations that support our work from UK, Ireland and Australia, have given us flexibility in our plan of action for this year so that we are able to take into account new priorities.
At the moment in San Benito, there are families with no money, as they live hand to mouth and there has been no work for the past four weeks, due to the lockdown. These families fall outside of the help offered by the Government, so are desperate. We are finding ways to help them.
We held our Holy Week services. I miss not being with the people, as presently I live in our Centre House, where I am the House Manager. We have 12 living in the House, some caught by the travel restriction but 6 of us are in the vulnerable category, so we have to be extra careful. So far we are getting along well, praying together, enjoying each others company and sharing out the chores of the house.
As one missionary said a long time ago about Peru, many a sad moment but never a dull one! We held some Holy Week ceremonies offering our prayers for all whom we know and work alongside. So feel included!
British Columban Fr. Ed O’Connell is the Peru Central House Manager which is located in the country’s capital, Lima. The Warmi Huasi project supports women and children living on very on low incomes.