From October 2020 through June 2021, low case numbers and eased restrictions in Guatemala allowed ALDEA’s sister organization ABPD to resume most of our regular in-person development work. With safety protocols in place, they worked with socially distanced groups of 10 or fewer participants, putting in extra hours to train a higher number of smaller groups.
Unfortunately, by the end of June a new delta-variant fueled wave of cases had begun in Guatemala, including the rural villages where we work, and we made the difficult decision to suspend most of our in-person programming to help keep our staff and community partners safe. We also adopted a policy of no official ALDEA travel to Guatemala and no visitors to ABPD. As of late September, daily case numbers remain high, and it seems an untold number of cases and deaths are going unreported. Public hospitals have been filled past capacity for weeks, and COVID tests are expensive and hard to come by for many. The country’s vaccination rollout continues to progress in fits and starts, with ongoing confusion around eligibility and availability of first and second doses. As of September 27, just 13% of the population has been fully vaccinated.
It has become clear that unfortunately, we will have to continue contending with these high-level COVID-19 risks in the months, if not years, ahead. As they continue work on water and sanitation projects in two communities with very strict protocols in place, the ABPD staff are hard at work developing a more complete, modified version of our strategic plan that can be implemented during times of high risk, such as the current COVID-19 wave Guatemala is experiencing. With the expertise and oversight of our ALDEA and ABPD boards, as well as input from community members, they are looking for creative ways to safely implement infrastructure projects on a larger scale while providing as much of our training curriculum as possible in a remote or one-on-one format. They are finding ways to work around significant challenges, such as limited internet availability in rural areas and the fact that most people’s first language, Kacquikel, is primarily spoken (not written).
COVID-19 vaccines are now available to most community members in our partner villages, and ABPD is doing everything they can to support the local health centers as they administer doses. We are also adding a vaccine education component to our training programs that will empower local leaders to help combat widespread misinformation so more people can make informed choices. We hope to see area case numbers diminish as vaccination rates climb in the months ahead so that we can safely return to conducting regular trainings and activities with small groups in person.
2020 COVID Updates
As our partners in Guatemala face many challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, ALDEA and our sister organization ABPD are doing our best to safely continue our grassroots development work while also responding to emergency needs in our partner communities.
In mid-March 2020, we suspended in-person programming to help stop the spread of the coronavirus and comply with government mandates. Staff focused on professional development training, recording and distributing video trainings via tablets, and staying in daily contact with women serving as promotors and other community leaders to provide advice and assess needs for support.
Beginning at the end of April, we delivered more than 12,000 masks and 95 gallons of hand sanitizer to our partner communities in Tecpán and Comalapa to help them comply with government orders and minimize the potential spread of the coronavirus. We also continued regular distribution of family planning methods, prenatal and children’s vitamins, and treatments for pediatric diarrhea. In communities that did not yet have a water system, we trucked in water during the dry season so they could wash their hands. Another community lost their vital family gardens to a hail storm, so we provided new seedlings.
In late May, our local ABPD staff completed a larger survey of families in our nine current partner communities. The results showed a critical need for support based on widespread loss of income, isolation due to lockdown measures, and rising food prices. This second phase of our response focused on food distribution for those of our partners who are going hungry. In late June, we provided a month’s supply of corn, beans, and oil to more than 400 of our hardest-hit families, starting with a pilot distribution in the highest-need community and expanding from there. We also provided personal hygiene items, inputs for vital corn and bean crops that people are unable to procure on their own, and seeds for family gardens. Our second round of emergency food and hygiene aid went out to 550 families during the first week of August. Providing this level of emergency resources is a significant commitment made possible by the generosity of our donors. You can find a more detailed description of our COVID-19 emergency response, along with community member perspectives, in our Summer 2020 Newsletter.
Starting in August, as Guatemala began to re-open, the ABPD staff began to resume work on water and sanitation projects with strict safety protocols in place. In October, we began in-person, socially-distanced trainings with small groups of women serving as health promotors and men. We also engaged community members in developing a series of printed guides addressing COVID-19 prevention and treatment of mild cases. These have been distributed throughout our partner communities, and we’ve made them available to many other local organizations as well (click the title to download each PDF):
Thank you to those generous donors who have stepped up recently to make it possible for us to respond to our partners’ emergency needs and to make up for lost time as we get back to work. Please consider making a gift to help us continue supporting our partners through this crisis.