An update from Fr Ed O’Connell about the Columban outreach to families trying to survive the Covid-19 crisis in Peru.
The total number of cases of coronavirus on the 18 April was 1,704,757 (51.6% in Lima Department and Province of Callao) and 57,230 deaths (49.3% in Lima Department and Province of Callao).
The number of new cases are unpredictable, they go up and down but are usually around 8,500, 40% of which are the Brazilian variant.
The deaths are nearer 350 a day but today it was over 400. But some papers report that these Ministry of Health figures are not the full story, and suggest that the deaths at the moment are nearer 500 a day from coronavirus.
The Registry of Deaths (Sinadef) said two months ago there was in excess of 102,000 deaths, now probably nearer 120,000, due to Covid19, as opposed to the official number of 53,900. This sounds much nearer the truth when listening to the people about the spread of the virus and the number of deaths that went uncounted.
The vaccine that arrived from China has been used on front line workers. Now the elderly are being attended to. More vaccines are arriving but it is not clear how they will be distributed and to whom.
The general population will most probably have to wait until later in the year and/or the first three months of next year. There is little transparency about both the number of vaccines that have arrived and also the number of people vaccinated. Recent reports say 2% of the population have received one jab and 1% two jabs, the full dosage.
I accompany Manuel Duato Special Needs School, a Columban project. The teachers have been in ‘virtual’ contact since March last year, and through the summer of 2021 (January to mid-March), with the parents and through them with nearly 400 children. The attendance in virtual sessions, during 2020, by the parents was outstanding, with better percentages than most primary schools.
The new school year, 2021, is underway with teachers back to work albeit virtually with over 400 students, most of whom severely disabled. I have just received the latest figures, March, of the impact of the pandemic, especially due to the Brazil variant which has caused 40% of all cases in Peru at the moment.
56 of the 400 students have or have had the virus up to and including March. Of their parents: 116 fathers and 106 mothers have or have had the virus, and sadly 7 fathers and 1 mother have died. Of the teachers, 28 out of the 70 staff have or have had the virus with two in critical condition. 46 of their close relatives have or have had the virus, including 7 who have died. It is all so sad. At present 69% of the parents are out of work or have occasional temporary work, no safety net here!
We have helped 55 families of these students on five occasions during 2020, with amounts around £25 each time and at Christmas we gave £50. Again now in 2021 we have given out larger amounts to eight families who either have a special needs child with covid19 or are families with a member or more with covid19 or other serious illness, all in dire financial difficulties. We have distributed support to the 40 hardest hit families and will need to do so again soon.
The Warmi Huasi project, accompanying 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, is producing amazing results.
Our Warmi Huasi teams continue to be in touch constantly with the parents and teachers about the welfare of the children. We have given out all the books from the reading clubs so that the children can read at home. We also have radio programs with the children in Ayacucho, with bio-security advice and story-telling and getting them to send in their stories.
From February through March this year, we arranged for teachers to visit homes, in a very limited way respecting protocols of bio-security and safeguarding, of the children of the primary school in Lampa, Ayacucho. These children had dropped behind, we are hoping to save their school year 2020. Likewise in San Benito, help is being given to those children who have dropped behind.
In San Benito, the mothers have continued the five communal kitchens into 2021. The figures on the 1 April 2021 are: 185 families helped, with an average of 5 persons per family, means a total of 925 people receive a meal each day, plus 74 social cases, a grand total of 999 meals a day. We have been helping each communal kitchen with the purchase of foodstocks, especially vegetables, chicken or fish, and bio-security equipment.
The communal kitchen in Misiones parish, where I used to work. Has been set up by those parishioners who have worked for years in a pastoral group to protect women from violence. They are presently serving 30 meals a day, Monday to Friday and hope to get up to 50 a day. It serves mostly migrant families from Venezuela and some local families and social cases. I am delighted, as we have been trying to get this communal kitchen off the ground for a couple of months now. A Venezuelan woman, ingrid, is a member of the organizing team, a social worker, and that is a big help.
Thanks to those who support the ‘family solidarity programme’ in Ireland, Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand who have helped these families in Peru.
May the Risen Lord be near to us all.
Love and blessings, Ed
Please support Fr Ed’s work in Peru by donating here
Alternatively, you can send a cheque payable to ‘Columban Missionaries’ to the Far East Office, Dalgan Park, Navan, Co Meath C15 AY2Y or call 00353 46 909 8275.