Every day seems to blend into the next. It’s been challenging to find the new normal.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had big implications all over the world. This is especially true in Latin America, now considered the hot bed of infections. In addition to the alarming rise in cases in countries like Brazil, Perú, and Venezuela – there has been a devastating impact from the pandemic on people living in the experience of poverty.
The economies of many Latin American nations, with formal and informal sectors, have been badly hit. This is especially true in Perú, where it is estimated 70% of the total population work in the informal economy. If you work – you get paid and eat. If you don’t – you have no money and you and your family go hungry.
When President Martin Vizcarra declared a national state of emergency on March 15, and the country closed their borders – and there was a collective sense that we’d be back to normal in a few weeks. I was in Urubamba in the Sacred Valley of Cusco at our Casa Girasoles, and I distinctly remember sitting down with our team and saying – “things are going to change. They’re going to change a lot. We’ve got to be prepared.” Little did I know.
Now over 80 days into a nationwide quarantine – Perú has been pushed into a “new normal” that no one could have ever imagined. Public health experts have been saying ever since the lockdown started, the big challenges would come from pushing people away from their ability to gain access to a living wage. This is true for the fifth of the Peruvian population that live on less than $100 per month. The economic reality of their lives has made it almost impossible for them to comply with the quarantine measures. This has pushed Perú to the point of becoming the world’s second highest per capita rate of the new infections per day.
Staying home for long periods of time is impossible for many Peruvians. In a country where only 44% of households have access to a refrigerator, living day-to-day means you need to be out in the world. This means that many families leave the house every day to access food. This has created a tremendous problem for community-based viral transmission.
So where does this leave things? Cases continue to raise at a steady pace. Over the past week cases of new infections have risen by over 35,000. This is partly accounted for by more testing. However, it is also a reflection of the challenge of implementing and enforcing quarantine in a country where so many people need to work every day in order to survive.
Whats next? I’m not sure anyone knows. We at HBI are taking a “processes in parallel” approach. We’re planning for the longterm and responding in the near and now. We are aggressively supporting COVID relief efforts where we can; and, we’re planning for the future We’ll keep updating you on our work. We’ll keep posting pictures. And, most of all – we’ll keep building bridges as we find our new normal.
Check out these photos of our teams responding to the pandemic in this brief Google photo album: HBI COVID-19 Response Photo Album